Summer Treats!

Summer is a wonderful season. Summer brings lazy days and hazy skies. It brings short sleeves and water play, hot picnics on the beach, late night bonfires and vacation. And… it brings lots of frozen treats! As a child, I always looked forward to special summer snacks that would bring cool relief to my palate as I ran around outside to my heart’s content. Now, as a wife and mother, I no longer have the time – nor the urge, to spend the better part of each summer day playing outside, but I do still have the taste buds to enjoy the same snacks, now together with my husband and our own kids (our six month old boy just gets to look, but many of these are toddler friendly, as our 1 ½ year old has already discovered!).

Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookie Sandwiches

OK – this first recipe isn’t really toddler friendly – too rich and chocolaty – but it’s definitely a favorite snack and dessert for my husband and I.

  1. Make chocolate chip cookie dough. You can use your favorite recipe. I’m a fan of the basic Nestle Toll House recipe – they’re rich, soft and chewy, flavorful, and freeze well. Once you have your dough, spread it out into a rectangular pan (the exact size depends on how much dough you have and how thick you want the cookies. A 9 1/2 x 13 inch pan or one a little larger would work for one batch of the Nestle recipe. Follow recipe indications for cooking temperature and time – the pan cookie usually takes about the same amount of time to bake as drop cookies would. You know they’re done when they’re golden brown on top…
  2. After the pan cookie cools, slice it into equal sized squares or rectangles, based on the size and shape you want your sandwiches to be. Place the cookies, in stacks of two, on a large freezer tray.
  3. Take out ice cream of choice. Either use an ice-cream scooper to form a ball of ice cream and press it between two of the cookie bars or, slice the ice cream with a knife – this allows you to decide how thick you want the layer of ice cream and cut it to the exact size of the cookie… Place the cookie sandwiches back in the freezer immediately. Depending on how many you are making, you might need to put some in the freezer while you continue filling others, to prevent the ice cream from melting. Melt
  4. Melt chocolate for coating the sandwiches, either in a double boiler, or in the microwave. If you use the microwave, chop the chocolate into small chunks first, and stir the chocolate every thirty seconds until it is melted. You will need between 150 and 300 grams of chocolate, depending on whether you want to coat the whole sandwich or just part.
  5. Coat the ice cream sandwiches – either use a basting brush to spread chocolate over the sandwich (less chocolate is required), or dip the sandwich directly in the chocolate (results in a much thicker shell). Return sandwiches to freezer until ready to serve (these keep well in the freezer for at least one week.

Variations: You can be very creative with this dessert idea, using any combination of ice cream flavors and types of chocolate (substituting other types of cookies might even work too!). These are some variations we’ve tried and enjoyed:

  • Peanut-Carmel ice cream, milk chocolate shell
  • Mint chocolate chip or peppermint ice cream with dark chocolate shell
  • Macchiato/mocha/coffee ice cream with a chocolate shell dipped in roasted almonds
  • Cookie crunch ice cream with milk chocolate shell

Tip: Chocolate chip cookies, whether as part of an ice cream sandwich or just on their own, are a favorite in our house. Between work, household and family responsibilities, and other projects, I never have time to make them as often as I make, but I have found out that raw chocolate chip cookie dough freezes well. You can make a double batch, bake half, and freeze the other half, so they are ready to bake when desired. To freeze them, form the cookies on a pan, as if going to bake them, but put the pan in the freezer. Once the cookies are still (2-3 hours later), take the pan out of the freezer and put the frozen balls of cookie dough into a freezer bag (if you are going to layer them, put wax paper between layers so they don’t get stuck together). When you are ready to bake them, take them out of the freezer, space them a couple of inches apart on the pan, and put them in the oven. They will only take 2-3 minutes longer than the regular cooking time.

Fruit Smoothies: 

I love frozen fruit smoothies, but don’t like to buy them. First of all, they are often outrageously expensive. Second, the ones I’ve found at restaurants or convenient stores usually taste either too synthetic or too sweet. So, I’ve often experimented with making my own, and have finally found a method I really like. I’d tried making the smoothie and then freezing it, blending ice cubes with fresh fruit, and following different recipes online that take an ice cream maker, but I was never fully satisfied with the consistency of the smoothies – OK, but not great. I have finally, however, found a method I really like: the trick is to use frozen fruit.

My favorite smoothies just take three fresh and natural ingredients: fruit of choice, a little honey, and a little juice.

  1. Wash and peel the fruit you want to use (I have used this recipe with watermelon, peaches, nectarines, mangos, and strawberries – it might work well with other berries and fruits as well – I just haven’t tried them yet). Chop the fruit into small pieces (bite-size pieces work well – larger pieces slow down the blending process and could burn out the motor…) and place in the freezer overnight.
  2. Take frozen fruit out of the freezer. If the pieces are loose, put the fruit directly in the blender. If the fruit has become a solid block, run it under warm water for a few seconds until you can use a knife or fork to separate it into smaller pieces again. For a regular size blender, put in about 2 cups of frozen fruit (this will make two large or three to four smaller smoothies).
  3. Add a little honey as a natural sweetener. This is optional and depends on your tastes – some of the fruits are sweet enough on their own. Adding the honey also helps make the consistency smoother and less grainy, though. I usually add about a tablespoon when using 2 cups of fruit…
  4. Add a little fruit juice (about ¼ cup for a thicker smoothie, more for a thinner one). Choose a flavor that goes well with the fresh fruit – berry juices go well in a strawberry smoothie, for example). Alternatively, add a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice and a little less tan ¼ cup of water.
  5. Blend on high for 1-2 minutes. Remove lid and scrape sides of blender. Blend longer if necessary. How long it will take for the frozen chunks to disappear and the mixture to become the perfect consistency varies depending on the type of fruit and the power of the blender. It has never taken me longer than 3-5 minutes.

Lemonade Ice Cubes:

Freeze lemonade in an ice-cube tray. Use them to chill glasses of lemonade or iced tea. They serve the purpose of ice cubes, but, instead of watering down the drink, add to the flavor.

Frozen Banana Treats:

  1. Slice fresh bananas into bite size piece. Put them in the freezer in a single layer until they freeze; then put in freezer bag to preserve freshness. Take out and munch on them as a healthy frozen snack.
  2. For a sweeter banana snack, take the frozen slices of banana, dip them in melted chocolate and return to the freezer until desired. Optional: add a dollop of peanut butter as well.
  3. Make all natural frozen banana custard. All it takes is a frozen banana and a blender. Take the frozen banana slices, put them in a blender and blend on high until the fruit loses its solid consistency and becomes thick and creamy. Eat as is or return to the freezer for an hour or two for a thicker result.

Well, that’s all for now. I think there are endless possibilities for summer treats, but these are a few I’ve always enjoyed. I hope all of you have had a great summer, and enjoyed your own favorite summer foods and snacks. Try some of these if they appeal to you, and feel free to share your own treasures too!

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