this has nothing to do with ice cream

peanut butter cup ice cream | the merry gourmet

I had the rare opportunity this summer to look back on the last six years of my career as an oncologist and to reflect on where I started and where I’m headed. The experience was eye opening, motivating, and educational. It was also painful.

I work in academic medicine (some of you know this already), and in academics, the only way to be promoted up the professorial hierarchy is to prepare a promotion packet. The promotion packet is a compilation of every activity I’ve been involved in since I was hired and every accomplishment I’ve achieved along the way. I had to write it myself. This meant that I spent nearly an entire month, maybe a little longer, writing about myself, about all of the many things I’ve done and how great I am at everything – patient care, teaching, administration, and research. When I finally turned it in, my packet was around 50 pages in length, and over 15,000 words.

By the end of writing it, I was fairly sick of myself. You probably would too, if you read it.

It’s done, though. It’s in someone else’s hands. A committee or two or three will review my packet by at least ten other academic physicians, and later. The packet will make its way up the university ladder, all the way to the president’s desk. And one day, about a year from now, I’ll find out if I met all the criteria for promotion. I’ll find out if I represented myself in a good enough light to be deemed worthy.

As tedious as the process of preparing my promotion packet was, though, it made me think about my goals, both in my career (which really does seem less of a job and more of an innate calling) and in my life. While I was forced to document what I’d achieved over the past six years in my work, I began thinking of the path I’ve taken in life, and with this blog. I’ve been writing here for over four years now – the anniversary was in February, and I completely missed it.  Having this space has helped me grow on so many levels, but I’m still not quite sure what my ultimate goal with this is.

I think my goal is to just write. This is what I feel compelled to do. The writing – about food and life and family – is what gives me a sense of peace when I log off the computer each day, when I step away from Word to join my family.

I’m speaking about blogging this weekend, at the Food and Wine Conference in Orlando. I’ll be on a panel with three other food writers and bloggers – Maggie Battista, Lael Hazan, and Katie Workman – each of whom has been incredibly successful in her own unique path. Our panel is about balancing blogging and life and career. It’s something I know a little bit about.

This has nothing to do with ice cream, of course. And it really has nothing to do with peanut butter cup ice cream. But I want you to have the recipe, because it’s a good one. Consider it my gift to you, for sticking with me through thick and thin, through the drama of these last four-plus years. Thank you for reading my writing, even when I ramble and especially when I don’t.

peanut butter cup ice cream | the merry gourmet

Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream

You may find a simpler recipe for homemade ice cream, but I swear, this one is so worth the effort. I prefer egg-based ice cream recipes, because I like the texture better than recipes that do not use egg yolks. I tend to make this a two- or three-day affair, though you can certainly do it in less time. I make the custard base one afternoon or evening, chill it overnight, then churn it the next day. After several hours (or another overnight chill), it's ready to enjoy.


1-3/4 cups heavy cream
1-1/4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped miniature peanut butter cups (about 15 miniature cups)


Place a 9-inch-square metal baking pan in freezer. Combine heavy cream, milk, 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, corn syrup, and salt in medium saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture is steaming steadily and registers 175 degrees, 5 to 10 minutes [I use a Thermapen digital thermometer]. Remove saucepan from heat.

Meanwhile, while cream mixture heats, whisk yolks and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in bowl until smooth. Slowly whisk 1 cup heated cream mixture into egg yolk mixture. Return entire mixture to saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and registers 180 degrees, 7 to 14 minutes. Stir in vanilla and remove from heat. Using a fine mesh strainer, carefully strain custard into a large bowl and let cool. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (or up to 24 hours).

Transfer custard to ice-cream machine and churn according to your machine's instructions. When the ice cream is nearly frozen, about 5 minutes from the end, add in the chopped peanut butter cups. Ice cream will be soft serve consistency when it's done. Scoop ice cream into the frozen baking pan and press plastic wrap on surface. Return to freezer until firm around edges, at least 1 hour. Transfer ice cream to airtight container, pressing firmly to remove any air pockets, and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours.

Adapted from this recipe from  Cook's Illustrated, from July 1, 2011.

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9 Responses to “this has nothing to do with ice cream”

  1. 1

    Oh I wish I could hear you speak at that conference – what a fabulous panel 🙂 Good luck – I am sure you will knock it out of the park. You’re such an inspiration.

  2. 2
    Kathryn — July 17, 2014 @ 4:36 am

    I recently had a similar opportunity to look back at the past 8 years of my career with my current employer and think about what I wanted out of the next few years. It’s hard going (and I’m thankful that I just had to speak to my experience and not go through the tortuous process that you did!) but I think it has definitely helped to clarify what I want out of life; it’s so easy to get caught up in the busyness of things that you end up drifting along rather aimlessly.

  3. 3
    olga — July 17, 2014 @ 7:32 am

    i could’ve put together that packet for you. dear so and so, MJ is awesome – trust me. The end 🙂 Sorry to miss you speak! You’ll be amazing! Go kick ass! xo

  4. 4
    Gail — July 17, 2014 @ 8:12 am

    Will stick with you through thick, thin and ice cream.
    And, I agree with Olga. I could have provided the PS on the packet.


  5. 5

    I remember talking about this just a few months ago. And, as our friends have stated already, you’re awesome. And you deserve every wonderful opportunity that comes your way.

    Have a blast in Orlando. Enjoy your time with the other panelists. 🙂

  6. 6
    dixya bhattarai — July 17, 2014 @ 5:06 pm

    MJ, your writing so soothing and have so much emotions attached, it always speaks to me.

  7. 7
    Paula — July 17, 2014 @ 5:14 pm

    You are a very patient woman! Submitting your own argument for a promotion and then having to wait a year to hear back…I can’t imagine. I can however, imagine how well your promotion package will be received by everyone who will be reviewing it. I hope you do get the promotion MJ, I’m sure it is very well deserved and very much earned. Meantime, enjoy the conference and I have to add that this ice cream looks great!

  8. 8
    Amy @ The Nifty Foodie — July 20, 2014 @ 12:10 am

    I hope the promotion happens for you. 🙂 Best of luck!

  9. 9
    Mallory @forkvsspoon — July 23, 2014 @ 4:20 pm

    I love stopping by here and reading your words…so, I agree with everyone so far…we are here with you – thick, thin, and ice cream! Wishing you the best with the promotion process 🙂

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