Are you sitting around thinking that you'll just grab a half-gallon of ice cream from the freezer after your Independence Day barbecue, scoop it out, and call it a night?
Sure, you could take the lazy route. But if you have a few extra minutes to get creative with that ice cream, you'll be able to serve up dessert fireworks. A few ideas:
ICE CREAM AND BERRY SHORTCAKES
Use ice cream instead of whipped cream along with sweetened berries to make strawberry shortcakes. To make prep quick and easy, use store-bought biscuits or cakes and scoop ice cream into muffin tins and freeze overnight so it is already portioned and ready to serve.
ICE CREAM BONBONS
Use a mini ice cream scoop to portion out small ice cream balls onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze. Melt and cool some bittersweet chocolate, quickly dip the balls in the chocolate and return to the baking sheet, and freeze until ready to serve.
ICE CREAM CONE SUNDAES
Arrange juice glasses on a baking sheet. Scoop ice cream onto cones. Melt and cool some bittersweet chocolate. Working over the chocolate bowl, spoon the chocolate over the ice cream, sprinkle with sprinkles, top with a maraschino cherry, and place in glasses so cones are upright. Freeze until ready to serve.
ICE CREAM SANDWICHES
Scoop out ¼ cup balls of ice cream onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and flatten slightly with the bottom of a measuring cup. Freeze until hard, then sandwich between homemade chocolate chip or peanut butter cookies. Wrap sandwiches in plastic and freeze until ready to serve.
ICE CREAM CUPCAKES
Line a muffin tin with paper liners and scoop ice cream into liners. Freeze until firm. Spoon some melted and cooled chocolate over each ice cream ball, "frost" with whipped cream and freeze until ready to serve.
When preparing any of these, work quickly, returning your ice cream to the freezer if it starts to melt. And give your dessert plenty of time in the freezer (at least 3 hours and up to a day) so it is nice and cold at serving time.
RED, WHITE, AND BLUE ICE CREAM TERRINE
With just a few ingredients I had on hand, I made a patriotic ice cream terrine to celebrate the Fourth of July. Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap, layer ice cream, maraschino cherries and colored whipped cream inside, and freeze until firm. A drizzle of chocolate and a shower of sprinkles finishes it nicely. A layer of cookie crumbs on the bottom of the terrine will prevent it from slipping as you slice it. If the weather isn't too warm and the terrine is well-frozen, you can stick sparkler cake candles into the unmolded terrine before carrying it to the table.
1 (1½-quart) container chocolate-chip ice cream, divided
1 (16-ounce) jar maraschino cherries, stems removed, rinsed, drained and patted dry
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Blue food coloring
½ cup graham cracker, vanilla wafer or chocolate wafer cookie crumbs
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
Red, white and blue sprinkles
1. Line a 9½-by-4-by-3-inch loaf pan with a double layer of plastic wrap, making sure the wrap is tucked into all the corners and there is at least 1 inch overhanging the top of the pan on all sides.
2. Spoon 1 pint ice cream into a medium mixing bowl and mash with the back of a spoon until it is smooth but not melting. Put it into the pan and smooth over the crumbs with a spoon. Arrange cherries on top and place in freezer.
3. Whip the cream, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer until it holds soft peaks. Add a drop or two of food coloring to color the cream bright blue. Whip until it holds stiff peaks. Remove the pan from the freezer and smooth the blue cream over the cherries. Return to the freezer and freeze until the cream is firm, about 1 hour.
4. Spoon the remaining pint of ice cream into a medium-size mixing bowl and mash with the back of a spoon until it is smooth but not yet melting. Scrape it into the pan and smooth it over the blue whipped cream. Sprinkle crumbs over the ice cream. Cover the pan with more plastic wrap and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours and up to 1 week.
5. Remove the pan from the freezer and unmold the cake: Gently tug the plastic wrap that lines the pan to loosen the cake. Place a serving platter over the pan and turn over. Gently tap to release. Peel the plastic from the terrine. Drizzle with chocolate and sprinkle with sprinkles. Slice and serve immediately or place in the freezer, on the platter, for up to 2 hours, then slice and serve. Makes 6 to 8 servings.