The Hot Pot Blog

August 24, 2010

Mini Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches: A Recipe

Chris makes a fantastic hand model doesn’t he?

I spent last week wracking my brain trying to think of the perfect dessert to bring to our friends’ Trivia party last weekend.

I wanted something delicious and over-the-top, yet portable.  Totally indulgent but not too much so.

I wanted something more interesting than cookies but not fussy or pretentious.  Something fun.

Then it hit me: chipwiches!

Who doesn’t love a serving of ice cream served between two chocolate chip cookies?  That perfect combination of cold creamy goodness, chocolate chips, and salty-sweet cookie.

The corporate version of this dessert is the sole reason the ice cream truck stayed in business on my childhood street.

This is a dessert that smacks of summer and nostalgia and sweet, sweet goodness.

And somewhat surprisingly, the homemade version is even better than the packaged ice-cream truck variety.  Made with homemade cookies and full-fat vanilla-bean flecked creamy custard, these things are practically sinful.

Sinful and rich.  To keep these from being too gluttonous and to up the cute/sophistication factor, I strove to create something about 1/3 the size of the dessert I remember from my childhood.  I wanted these treats to fit in one hand and disappear in just 2-3 bites.

Which seemed to work out well.  At the party people moaned and swooned.  After the party, I was told I was never allowed to leave my leftover desserts in our friends’ freezer.

Apparently it doesn’t matter how miniature these guys are if you eat 4 or 5 at a time.

Anyways, you really have to try these. They are worth the effort I swear.  If this version strikes you as a bit too sweet for your tastes, try this recipe for Chocolate cookies and strawberry gelato sandwiches. I made them last summer and they were to. die. for.  Grown up and luscious. I liked them even better than the chocolate chip version here, but you have to work with what you can get in China.

The trick is to make uniform cookies, I found that using cold cookie dough and portioning it with a tablespoon-sized scoop worked really well.

The other trick is to let your ice cream soften for about 10 minutes before trying to scoop it between the cookies.

Another trick is to make sure you have enough freezer space to allow the sandwiches to freeze up on a tray before you pile them up in a tupperware container.

And of course the real trick is making sure you don’t eat them all before the party.

Now, while homemade ice cream and homemade cookies makes this dessert kind of out of this world (not to mention sort of retro-dessert-fun) I’m fairly sure that you could do something similar with some Chips Ahoy and store-bought vanilla ice cream in a pinch.  Just saying.

Here are the assembly instructions, whether you use store-bought supplies or homemade:

1. Take your ice cream out of the freezer to soften for 10-15 minutes.  Put your cookies on several medium-sized plates or trays and put in the freezer to chill.  For more miniature sandwiches, use cookies about 1.5-2 inches in diameter (this is about 1 tablespoon of cookie dough for homemade cookies).

2. Wash your hands really well or grab a pair of food service gloves.(extra important for the assembly process)

3. Remove 1 plate/tray of chilled cookies from the freezer. With an ice cream scoop or large spoon, portion out about 1-2 tablespoons onto the bottom of one chilled cookie. Using a spatula or clean fingers, level the ice cream and spread to within a 1/4 of an inch of the edges.  If things are getting melty and sloppy, work quickly and don’t worry about perfection.

4.  Top ice cream with 2nd chilled cookie, bottom-side down.  Press the sandwich together gently with the palms of your hands (to prevent cookie breakage) and return to tray.  Repeat process with 5-6 more cookies and return plate/try to the freezer for sandwiches to harden.

5. Repeat with additional trays/plates.  Allow sandwiches to harden in the freezer for at least 1 hour before stacking and transferring to freezer-safe tupperware.

6.  Before serving, allow to thaw at room temperature for 5-10 minutes.

The cookie recipe I used is so good that it deserves its own post.  You’ll find it here soon.

The vanilla ice cream recipe is also so good that it deserves its own post but I’ll give it to you now.

It’s also good to note that this recipe is fairly fool-proof.  Case in point: I totally forgot to add the sugar at the beginning of the recipe and instead added it at the end before chilling the custard.  End result? Creamy, delicious goodness.

Vanilla Bean Custard (via Gourmet (RIP))

Combine cream, milk, sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a heavy saucepan. Scrape seeds from vanilla beans with tip of a knife into cream mixture, then drop in pods. Heat mixture just to a boil.

Whisk eggs in a large bowl, then add hot cream mixture in a slow stream, whisking. Pour mixture into saucepan and cook over moderately low heat, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened and an instant-read thermometer registers 170°F (do not let boil).

Pour custard through a fine sieve into a clean metal bowl, then cool, stirring occasionally. Chill, covered, until cold, at least 3 hours.

Freeze custard in an ice-cream maker. Transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden.

Cooks’ notes: ·To cool custard quickly after straining, set bowl in a larger bowl of ice and cold water and stir until chilled. ·Custard can be chilled up to 24 hours.

China in Photos: Day No. 58 In Which the Sun Comes Out and I Smell Fall

The sun shone!  The wind blew!  The humidity disappeared!

In case, you couldn’t tell from my exclamation points, these are all a really. big. deal.

Not only does the sun rarely shine in Chengdu, but weirdly enough, there is also very little in the way of gentle breezes, or even strong winds for that matter.

In other words, this is not a place where flags flutter on a regular basis.

It’s also not the sort of place where you use the word “dry” often to describe the weather.  As in “Arizona has a dry sort of heat,” or “my lips are dry from the lack of humidity in the air.”

In Chengdu, humidity and rain well, reign.  We make a fantastic destination for things like mold, rain boots, and sparkly vampires.

But today, ahhhh today, today was like a return to Wisconsin at this time of year.  Clear, and sunny skies, with just a whisper and a hint of the cooler cozy fall days to come.

I asked my tutor today whether leaves change color in Chengdu.  She looked a little confused for a moment but then assured me that the ginko leaves turn a lovely shade of gold in the winter.

Well, at least we have that much.  AND I found a supply of apple and cinnamon-scented candles today.  So I think that even if it doesn’t look like a Wisconsin fall, Chengdu fall will still be pretty nice.

Of course, we aren’t there yet.  For now it’s still summer and today was just so, so precious I ditched all of my errands and big plans for the day to sit outside and read a book in the beautiful clear clean air.

An amazingly, beautiful day.  Just the kind of thing I feel so freaking lucky to have experienced before returning to the working world next week.

August 23, 2010

China in Photos: Day No. 57 In Which I Enjoy the Last Monday of Unemployment

The above has nothing to do with my last Monday of unemployment (for now, I guess) but I just thought it was a building with virtues so ridiculous, they border on genius.

Because who doesn’t want to live in a rainbow, right?

But yes, last Monday of unemployment for now.  It was surprisingly anti-climatic.

Though you want to know what wasn’t anti-climatic?

Yea, we went and saw The Expendables last night with some friends.

It was everything you would expect from a movie with Sylvestor Stallone, Jet Li, Jason Statham, a cameo by Arnold Schwarzenegger, insane amounts of gore, and a minimal amount of plot.

Chris’ favorite bit of dialogue:

Daughter of dictator all tied up and about to be tortured and killed:

“Why are you here?”

Sylvestor Stallone, bad ass mercenary come to save her because he wants to be a “good guy:

“Because I am”

So yea, lots of dialogue that makes me seriously think the writers took a lot of cat naps under the assumption that anyone attending this film is coming for the gore and the hunky bad boys rather than a profound narrative on modern day drug-fueled dictatorships.

Which, given the dudes (and 1 fantastic lady) I saw it with, sounds about right.

It was fun though.  For me, the highlights were the Chengdu snacks we had before the film and the fact that Chris and I purchased 2 waters and a medium popcorn for just 22kuai (or about 3 dollars).

We will be adding “movie theater food at non-movie theater prices” to the “Things I love About China” column.

August 22, 2010

TED for the Foreign Service Family

[ted id=917]

My friend Lennon posted a link to this TED video on Twitter and it’s a goodie.

Living in a foreign country, but surrounded by a fairly homogeneous expat community, this video reminded me that living overseas is not, in and of itself, a worthwhile experience or an opportunity for growth unless I make it one.

And when I’m at my most frustrated and most homesick, that’s probably when I’m also learning the most about the world around me.

My favorite bit from Elif Shafak’s talk:

The Sufis say, “Knowledge that takes you, not beyond yourself is far worse than ignorance.”The problem with today’s cultural ghettos is not lack of knowledge. We know a lot about each other, or so we think. But knowledge that takes us not beyond ourselves, it makes us elitist, distant and disconnected. There’s a metaphor which I love:living like a drawing compass. As you know, one leg of the compass is static, rooted in a place.Meanwhile, the other leg draws a wide circle, constantly moving.

Happy Monday!

School Supplies!

Do you remember shopping for school supplies?

The setting: late August, hot and sweaty but with a chill in the evenings that signaled the coming of a beautiful Wisconsin fall.  The back-to-school coupons would have been filling the mailbox for weeks.

I remember pouring over the school’s list of required supplies for days trying to imagine what what wonders of elementary education might require 2 bottles of glue and 5 separate 2 pocket folders.

What glorious projects would I use my 32 ct. crayons for?  Which notebook covers were really “me?”  Did the flashcard requirement mean I was finally becoming grown up?

In Kindergarten neon-colored Elmer’s glue was the it accessory for Mrs. Barnes’ afternoon class.

In 4th grade I bought folders with NBA players on them.  Inspired by Little Giants and the coming onslaught of adolescence, I had decided to forgo an attempt at pretty-girl popularity and settle instead for quirky tomb0y-despite being short and woefully uncoordinated on the recess football field.

In 5th and 6th grades I bought old school composition books exclusively because I thought they were cool and classic and perfectly suited to my dreams of becoming a writer.

Even now, the middle of August reminds me that it’s time to shop for school supplies.  In my head there seems to exist this primal, emotional equation:

bountiful watermelon supply + sunset before 8pm + boredom with summer heat and humidity = time for school supplies.

And even here in China, especially here in China, I can’t help myself.

So we walked into the local Carrefour yesterday looking for a humidifier, and instead we walked out with notebooks and Watermelon Boy pastels.

At $3.00 total, it was a cheap but oh-so-satisfying thrill.  I clutched my purchases to my chest as we walked out of the store, imagining the possibilities for writing and drawing on the tantalizing plain brown covers.

And here in China, the notebooks are so fun!  Cheap and thin but hilarious with poetically inappropriate Chinglish sayings on the covers and surprisingly stunning Anime/Precious Moments style illustrations on all of the pages.

Who needs school supplies?  What were your favorites growing up?

China in Photos: Day No. 56 In Which We Find the Land of Grapes

After a sleepy morning, some dancing and some dishes, Chris and I hit the road today.  Off in search of…something.

We weren’t sure where we were trying to go and we didn’t bother with maps.  We were, it seems, simply struck by the urge to “get out of Dodge” and we did something about it.

A series of turns and bumpy roads and attempts to find an “Ancient Town” led us to this:

A few miles worth of grape stands and giant umbrellas on the road side with acres of grapes growing just beyond the road.

Everywhere we looked there were families jumping out of their cars to buy grapes.  In fact, the road of grapes seemed like a sort of destination unto itself, though the same grapes are available in all of the fruit stands across town.

It reminded me a bit of wine country only without the alcohol.

Chris and I of course had to jump down and join in.  A lovely woman sold us grapes and invited me in to take a few photos of their vines.

An odd but tasty day trip, one of those lovely “who’d have thought we’d get here from there” sorts of days.

But I still have a question, is it still called a vineyard if there is no wine-making involved?

Music for the a Happy, Lazy Sunday


I have a slight Ingrid Michaelson obsession going on lately.


Washing dishes goes faster when you have some good tunes playing, even if you got the tip off from an Apple commercial.


An oldie but a goodie.

Happy Sunday!

August 21, 2010

China in Photos: Day No. 55 In Which We Play Trivia and Admire the View

What happens what you get a bunch of school teachers and a few State Dept. people and a few pilots in a room together?

Some seriously intense trivia.  After 7 rounds, the Magnetic Zeros were declared the winners but the rest of us were calling for a rematch.

Though, I don’t think anyone will ever match our hosts fantastic array of trivia questions and professional looking spreadsheet used to keep score.

It was a great night with some great new people.  Can’t wait for the next one!  Thanks guys!

August 20, 2010

China in Photos: Day No. 54 In Which A Log Falls

There is, in our neighborhood, a small, raised, open space with a giant plastic character perched on the edge.  He’s wearing a tweedy looking sweater and holding a beer.

Which leads me to believe the space was, at some point in some city planner’s mind, supposed to be a “beer garden.”  After all, we live in “Europe City.”  It would be somewhat fitting.

Sadly, the space has sat empty probably since the day it was built.

And then today I witnessed the first major step in its inevitable, natural demise.

A giant overhead beam, at least 18 inches in diameter fell from about 15 feet up.  It was totally rotted through.

Quite scary to think about it falling really.  I guess that’s what happens when you use untreated lumber in a climate as wet and humid as this one.

The above is the inside of that beam.  When I stood up from taking the photo, I whirled around to find a white foreign guy staring at me.

Huh, you get sort of used to the Chinese stares, but when the foreigners stare it’s a bit more disconcerting.

I spent the rest of the walk home trying to remember if I had pulled my shirt down over the seat of my pants while I was taking the photo above.

Jury’s still out but the view around the corner was beautiful:

Happy Friday everyone!  Happy Weekend!  Happy homemade chipwiches! Oh wait, maybe that’s just my little Friday night project… 🙂

August 19, 2010

Chengdu Morning

In Chengdu, dawn comes quietly.

The alarm goes off and the house is still dark even as I pad quietly over to the kitchen to make coffee at half past 6.

It’s not so much that the sun rises here, but that the darkness lightens.

As Chris sleepily finds a shirt and combs his hair, the dark blue of night becomes a deep, purply grey.

As we sit and drink coffee and slowly wake up for the day, the sky reaches a sort of bluish grey.

While I finish off the last of Chris’ coffee and check my email the sky finally reaches a whitish-grey shade.

That’s when you know the sun is finally up, somewhere behind the clouds of haze and smog and humidity.

I used to be a sunny morning kind of gal.  I welcomed those Wisconsin summer mornings when the sun rose at 5:30am.  I relished morning runs at dawn in D.C., watching the sun rise over the U.S. Capital.

I miss the sunshine here, I do.  But I’m also finding there is something to like about the clouds.

No longer do I jump out of bed ready to tackle my to-do list, propelled onwards into mid-morning by the sun in a bright blue sky.

But nor do I suffer the way I thought I would.

Mornings here are gentler, quieter.  They feel softer and slower.

I feel almost like it’s my secret time.  A luxurious hour or so of moving slowly in that thick, velvety darkness before the day can truly begin.

If I accomplish something in those slow hours before the rest of the city wakes up, it feels like a bonus.  And if not, it feels like a deeply satisfying indulgence.

Good morning China.

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