oreo icebox cake!


It really feels like a lifetime since I did a recipe post - but here we are ... and I have one. Actually I have several but here is just the one I can write up right now. This recipe also comes with me admitting something. I might like Oreos.

I'm always a proponent of making cakes over buying them - always. It's like making a sundae but not putting sprinkles on the top. Why not just finish the job? That being said, we have a lot of great bakeries around us that make great cakes. I just really like to spend time in the kitchen. This cake is both incredibly fast... and slow at the same time. It takes virtually no time to prepare but you need a solid 7-8 hours for it to set.

But you've got some options here:
+ make your own whip cream ... or use cool whip. Since this was a special occasion, I went with full fat heavy whipping cream. But, any other time I would probably go with cool whip. It's just so easy and still tastes great.
+ fun stuff in the layers! If you are looking to spice this up a bit, toss in some small fruit or sprinkles at each layer. It'll add in some color and fun. I went with rainbow sprinkles since this was a birthday, but I would absolutely add in raspberries the next time. They squish down nicely unlike strawberries or blueberries.
+ whole or broken up oreos? I went with whole since this was my first cake but I think the next time, I'll do a combination of both. With the size pan I used, I had three layers of oreo and whip cream. I would do the bottom and top layer as whole oreos and in the middle do broken ones. Not only will this make it easier to cut up but I think it would also be fine aesthetically.

  1. Make your whip cream (or use cool whip). For the 11-12 inch pan, you really need a lot of whip cream so use the quart of heavy whipping cream.
  2. Once you've made your whip cream, reserve about a cup of it to the side for the decoration later. With the rest of the whip cream gently fold in cocoa powder. You will need at least 1/4 cup but add more if you like it chocolate-y. 
  3. Line the bottom of your springform pan with oreos. If you use an 11 or 12 inch pan (I can't remember exactly), it'll be 19 exactly! But don't stress, just make sure you've got a nice even layer.
  4. Add a thick layer of whip cream to the top of the oreos and spread it out to all the edges and in all the cracks. Then add in another layer of oreos! If you'd like sprinkle in some fruit or decorative sprinkles here before your next layer of whip cream. 
  5. Repeat the layers until you make it to the top of the pan. The top of the pan should be whip cream.
  6. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for 6-8 hours. If you are tight on time, you can put it in the freezer for a bit. The goal of the fridge time is not only to set the cake but also to soften the oreos, so you really can't just shorten the time completely but doing all freezer time.
  7. Once your cake is set, pull from the fridge and run a knife along the edge of the pan just to free it before opening the springform. This will prevent cracking.
  8. Using the reserved white whip cream, you can decorate the top. I put it in a small plastic bag, cut off the corner and piped some small decorative circles. 

Shopping List
2 bags of oreos (make sure you have 60)
1 quart of whipping cream

22 hours on Martha's Vineyard


... otherwise known as when I held my brother and his girlfriend hostage... and made them do everything I wanted to do. But actually, it was a really great day. One of these days I'll have to actually stick around the island for more than 24 hours and relax more - but until then, I'm leading action packed adventure trips.

Similar to last year, we had a small hit list of things we wanted to try and do - but really added a whole bunch more this time. And just like last time I talked Hertz into giving us a beautiful new Jeep Wrangler for the price of a Nissan Versa. It was amazing.

Fast Start
After catching a midmorning boat to the island, we landed in Oak Bluffs. Even though our rental car was in Vineyard Haven, we capitalized on the hiccup by immediately riding the Flying Horses Carousel. The fun part of this Carousel is that everyone tries to get the brass ring. Although none of us got it, there were some valiant attempts. Then we hopped in an Uber to pick up our rental car in Vineyard Haven... and then lunch in Edgartown. It was admittedly a ridiculous idea to drive this route but we had been to R+B for lunch last year and it was a home run. I (still) had a BLT... and it was (still) great. Perhaps even better than last year.

Gay Head Light & Menemsha
It is hard to resist a trip to Gay Head light when on the island - especially when I have learned it is open to the public. After lunch we shot over to the other side of the island to enjoy the view. The top of Gay Head light is really unlike any other that I've been in. It was borderline spacious. I'm used to them being so hot, tiny, and crowded. The view was also quite incredible. Totally worth $6.

Since we were in the area, I convinced my hostages we should also look at Menemsha. I had prepared myself for a big challenge finding parking... and there was none. It wasn't until several hours later that I realized there was plenty of parking because it was a TUESDAY.

While we were walking around Menemsha I ran into this plein air painter I first saw 3 years ago in nearly the same exact spot. I hesitated on whether to say something to her but I introduced myself and told her I had taken her picture 3 years prior... and it was one of my favorite photos.

Evening Activities
During our last trip to the Vineyard we missed out on a trip to Felix Neck for a little birding. Felix Neck is a Mass Audubon property with trails and educational opportunities - but we were just in it for the trails. Our grand master plan was to order a pizza for takeout and while that was cooking away enjoy a nice walk at Felix Neck. Jake spotted three birds he hadn't seen before so that was a victory in my book.

We grabbed our pizza from Edgartown Pizza and took it over to Chappy for sunset. This might be one of the best ideas I've ever had - but we also totally lucked out. We caught the On Time Ferry across the harbor and found Chappy to be deserted - not a soul in the parking lots. So we took the pizza for Wasque Point and enjoyed it on a picnic table looking out onto the water. Pure heaven. We checked out another spot on the island over by Dike Road as well. Given the time of day, the island was just gorgeous with all the big field open space... plus we saw some big deer a couple times.

The last part of the day could be called "circling Edgartown for parking and finding nothing". Despite it being a Tuesday night ... and everything else on the island vacant and easy to access... downtown Edgartown was still BUMPING. The "kids" got ice cream and I stole bites of both options. There was a live concert happening on the fish pier that seemed planned and also neat... but I was getting tired. We closed out the night with a round of National Parks Monopoly and Hogan's Heroes VHS tapes. Yes, VHS tapes.

Morning Stuff
The best and worst part about traveling with me is that I am up early - and I've already done an adventure before you get up. In this case, my morning adventure switched up our breakfast plan from Vineyard Haven to Katama.  I missed sunrise at Edgartown Light but still enjoyed the easy walk out of there. It has been a lifetime since I was in Katama - and it speaks to me now more than it used to perhaps... especially on a week day. At 6 am the beach is deserted and just a light ocean fog rolling around. Heaven.

After picking up the hostages at the house, we grabbed breakfast at Right Fork Diner. The cool part of this place? It is right on a bi-plane airfield along the ocean. You can sit and eat bacon... and watch old planes take off.

Next time? I'd like to explore the Farm Institute in Katama and maybe spend more time just sitting at the beach. My current regret is that I didn't buy this dumb tanktop at a "cheap" t-shirt store in Edgartown. It was $19 ... and I didn't feel like I needed another tanktop. That is still the truth... but with all my free time from work I am crushing my current tanktop inventory. 

I'm a tomato farmer


So the garden is officially in - and slowly taking root. Over the last two weekends I've been slowly selling off the remaining tomato baby seedlings. While I was a little disappointed in their size, people have been so thrilled when they buy them. Go figure. I'm not exactly paying my mortgage here but I've covered the cost of the garden this year. 

Costs incurred? Seeds, 2 replacement parts for the irrigation system, hay for keeping the weeds down, marigolds for keeping the bad bugs away, and dahlia bulbs.

Some of the tomato babies have totally taken off and others are moving at a glacial pace. The black truffle is a couple days away from having flowers which is incredible. There is a chance that it could beat the "4th of July" whose actual job is to be the first to fruit. 

Here's what actually ended up going into the garden number wise:
  • touchon carrots
  • spinach
  • kale (1)
  • romaine (1)
  • Japanese cucumbers (1)
  • yellow egg squash (2)
  • snap peas
  • kentucky beans
  • herbs (mint, basil, chives, parsley, oregano, cilantro)
  • peppers (3)
  • hot pepper (1)
For the tomatoes, it might be the most diverse crop yet:
The birds have been absolutely killing any attempt I've been making at carrots and flowers. I wasn't aware that they liked to eat cosmos seeds but apparently they do. After two rounds of sunflowers, I'm reverting to starting the seedlings in the garage and then will transplant them out. I'm going to be pretty pissed if these birds crush my sunflower dreams.

It's officially gardening season


I've been pretty busy with house renovations so I just haven't been doing any writing here - but that will change. We are on week 33 of renovations... and that has to end at some point right? I hope so.

The upside and downside has been that I haven't been able to over obsess about my garden plans this year. I picked the tomato varieties super fast during a Burpee sale in January and haven't looked back. And while the weather hasn't been super warm yet, I pulled the trigger and started planting this past weekend. But before I put any babes in the ground, I used my handy dandy soil tester that my friend Meaghan sent me. I was VERY excited to try this out.
What's getting planted this year:
  • touchon carrots
  • spinach
  • kale
  • romaine
  • Japanese cucumbers
  • yellow egg squash
  • snap peas
  • kentucky beans
  • a whole bunch of tomatoes
  • herbs (mint, basil, chives, parsley, oregano, cilantro)
So what's different? A few things:
  • no onions. They are absolutely zero work but I don't do a good job using them
  • less Kale. I actually get the most value out of kale but I felt like I needed variety last year... so let's see how I feel about spinach. 
  • less carrots. same story as the onions - but they do freeze well so I should be better at them.
  • no radishes. 
I did make a few slight changes to the configuration as well. I had so many tomato plants last year but did the best job taking care of the ones actually planted in the garden. So this year? No extra containers. It's either planted in the garden or it's not happening.
Regarding the "whole bunch" of tomato varieties? I haven't completely determined which plants are getting duplicates but here are the 9 varieties this year. Obscene but true:
  1. black cherry (2017 graduate)
  2. Shimmer
  3. 4th of July
  4. midnight snack
  5. black krim
  6. black truffle (2016 and 2017 graduate)
  7. sweet tangerine
  8. big rainbow
  9. sunrise bumble bee

fennel and pistachio lasagna


I am by no means striving to be a vegetarian. But, i guess this qualifies as a vegetarian meal - and i didn't hate it. i actually liked it.

On Sunday morning I was getting ready to make my grocery store list for the week. I popped over to Food52 to see if there was a good option for some Sunday / weeknight meals. This lasagna popped up right away. Plus, I only needed three ingredients to make it happen.

I have never cooked with fennel before. So the recipe instructions led me to googling "fennel fronds" to see what those actually were. I'm not quite sure that I actually did this 100% correctly - but I'm alive and this tasted good.

Some notes:

  • It is a very cheesy lasagna. I'm not a super big fan of ricotta in general, but this was okay. The next time I make this I'll probably try to add something else into the layers to break up all the ricotta. 
  • The pesto is awesome. It's obviously not a traditional pesto because there is no cheese in the mixture. I only made half the original lasagna but made the full pesto mixture. Always love having extra pesto on hand - and used some it last night with orichette and roasted peppers.
  • This lasagna doesn't exactly stand on its own. It could but I have eaten it (3x now) with some lightly dressed greens. Great balance.
  • The original recipe calls for 4 cups of grated parmesan. That is a whole lot. I probably only used like 1.5 cups and feel pretty great about it. Do what you want - but 4 seems like a lot.
Here's how it goes.

  1. MAKE PESTO // Combine the fennel, pistachios, basil, tarragon, salt, and pepper and blend until smooth in a food processor. With the motor running, slowly add the oil in a thin stream through the feed tube. Blend for 10 seconds more, or until thick and smooth. Cover and set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
  3. In a medium bowl, mix the pesto, ricotta, and cream together until combined.
  4. Place 3 or 4 of the noodles in the bottom of a 9 by 13-inch rectangular casserole dish, keeping them in a flat, even layer. Spread one-third of the ricotta mixture over the noodles, then sprinkle with some of the Parmesan. Place 3 or 4 noodles in an even layer on top of the Parmesan and repeat two more times, so you have three layers of the ricotta mixture and are left with the noodles on top.
  5. Sprinkle the cheddar and additional Parmesan evenly over the top. Feeling fancy? I added in some whole basil leaves. 
  6. Place the casserole dish on a baking sheet and place it in the oven. Bake until the cheese is bubbling around the edges, about 35 minutes. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.
Shopping List
Fennel-Pistachio Pesto:
3 cups coarsely chopped fennel stems and fronds
1 cup pistachios
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh tarragon
3/4 teaspoons flake kosher sea salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (135 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 pound lasagna noodles
2 cups fresh full-fat ricotta
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup grated white cheddar cheese

That's a wrap on Utah


And that's the wrap on our Utah Siblings Trip 2018!

We've always been a close trifecta but these trips are such a great opportunity to reconnect. I remember the magic of last year and wondered if it was a fluke. This trip was different than the last one but the magic was still there. I love the instant inside jokes. The hours spent driving in the car. The constant need for snacks.

We really covered a lot. Here is the rundown of some numbers:
5 National Parks
2 hotels
2 cabins
1061 miles driven
3 gas station trips
2 lunches skipped
2 bags of beef jerky
1 flight delay
3 cats found
1 winery
3 states (Nevada, Arizona, Utah)
3 airports (Boston, Vegas, SLC)
1 Arby's trip

National Parks (Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyonlands)
Hotels (Red Cliffs Lodge, Capitol Reef Resort, Bryce Valley Cabins, Majestic View Lodge)
Towns (Moab, Springdale, Tropic)
Breakfast (Oscar's, Jailhouse, Red Cliff's Lodge, Ruby's)
Dinner (Rim Rock Patio, Bit & Spur, Olive Garden, Red Canyon Lodge)

I'm not sure what our next trip will be but I think we know the secret sauce of what makes it all work. I hope that we can do this every year but I know that might not always be feasible. Just imagine (hopefully) that in future we are all leaving behind spouses and kids for this annual 4 day jaunt. A really special, magical tradition.

We made it to Arches // Day 5


So this is the last day of the trip. It was a real long one. I can never resist a sunrise and when you combine that with lots of driving and a red eye... well that's a long day.

Morning in Moab
When we first got to Red Cliff Lodge the day before, we knew we liked it but were also wistful for something slightly closer to society. Any of that remaining sentiment was erased when I drank coffee and watched the sunrise over the Colorado River. As we were just standing there peacefully taking in sunrise... a beaver swam by. I've never seen a beaver before! Plus, there was some bird/duck watching for Jake to partake in.

After sunrise, we headed into downtown Moab for breakfast. We got several recommendations but ended up at the Jailhouse Cafe. Spoiler alert? It legit used to be a jailhouse. It was also tasty.
Bird Sanctuary
Kerrianne did a lot of the planning for this trip. We made a lot of the decisions together but she did 90% of the research. One of the gems? She found a wildlife preserve perfect for birding in Moab. It took us a bit to actually find the entrance but it was worth it. I think Jake saw 4 new birds.
We didn't get to Arches until nearly noon - which is a lifetime from when we normally show up to parks. The line to get in was probably 30 cars deep - and there were 2 lines. Once we got into the park, we charted a course that would hopefully be a good balance of walking... and just driving. We pretty much stopped at everything but here are some specific callouts
+ Delicate Arch Overlook
+ Salt Valley Overlook
+ Devil's Garden
+ Sand Dune Arch
+ The Windows
+ Balanced Rock

The primary hike we did was the Devil's Garden. It was just the right amount of distance and effort. It would have been amazing to see Delicate Arch but on the last day of our trip, we were a bit worn out. I'd recommend maybe not doing Arches last - or just being more emotionally ready to walk up a bunch of rock :-). Also, Arches is crowded! So, you are never alone on trails. We spent probably about 4 hours bouncing around this park before packing up and heading out.
Bye to Utah
Throughout the entire trip, we have been really lucky with traffic and weather. It rained one morning, but other than that - home run. The streak ended on our 4 hour drive to Salt Lake City. About two hours into the drive, it started to rain ... and did not let up. Certainly made driving four hours in the dark to a red eye flight... less amazing.

Upside of the drive? We can say for certain that there are like no gas stations or rest stops between Moab and Salt Lake City. The original plan was to stop just around 2 hours... but we ended up going more than 3 hours ... because there was nothing. We did see a lot of trains - which Dad certainly appreciated. So we stopped at Olive Garden for dinner and then killed even more time at Petco since our flight got delayed. And I'm not sure if this is a low point or a high point, but we ate the leftover breadsticks on the floor of the airport while waiting for our flight. Either way, we made it the entire trip without any major issues. And I'll absolutely forget how miserable red eyes are when I'm booking my next trip.
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