“Scoop of the Day”: Fun and Flavorful Ice Creams for Any Occasion

I scream, you scream, we all scream for…“Semi-Homemade” ice-cream? Straight from the test studio of the “Kitchen Princess” (aka my other alias)….This is an inside look at my top secret ingredient for the ultimate, yet easy dessert!

I would never classify myself as a pastry chef, nor say that I could ever win a Betty Crocker award. I do love to cook, but I consider myself more of a “freestyle” chef, as I have a hard time following recipes or even using them at all; which is why desserts have never really been my strong suit, especially since 99% of the time you must following a recipe.

When I host a dinner party, I typically dread planning what to make for dessert. Over the past few years, I have either gotten older and wiser, or just a little more savvy with my time and skills on the dessert front. Which brings me to my signature go-to-sweet-creation…Ice-Cream! And my secret ingredient for this: Häagen Dazs- Five, Vanilla Bean Ice-Cream (pint)

So, you might be scratching your head thinking…is she really going to try to pull off serving a scoop of store bought vanilla ice-cream, and claim it’s her own?

Well, sort of… it’s actually simple! Homemade Ice-Cream is made from 5 straightforward ingredients: Milk, Cream, Sugar, Eggs, Vanilla. So, basically, I make it easier on myself and skip that step (mainly since I don’t have room to store an ice-cream maker at my little, yet adorable NYC apartment). I choose buy the already “made” base, then make it my own by adding signature ingredients. It’s not cheating…it’s getting creative! I like to select interesting flavor components, so that it is unique and has a sense of “artisanal” style.

Some of my favorite combinations include:

  • Earl Grey Black Tea with Lavender and Honey
  • Fresh Cinnamon Stick with a hint of Nutmeg
  • Fresh Basil and Thyme
  • Peanut Butter and Jelly with mini Chocolate Chips
  • Smore’s: Mini Chocolate Chips, Graham Crackers and Marshmallow Fluff
  • Carmel with Salted Pretzels

To jazz it up a bit more….I like to serve the ice cream in a cool eclectic dish or vintage tea-cup and garnish with either a thin almond cookie (also store bought), a chocolate hand-dipped fortune cookie wafer, or a pretzel rod, depending on which flavor combo I am serving.

This is a step-by-step guide to create my - 5 minute, fool proof dessert:

Buy a pint (or two) of the Häagen Dazs- Five, Vanilla Bean Ice-cream (low fat frozen vanilla yogurt can also be used if you are watching your waist line) Which retails for about $5

Measure ¼ cup heavy cream or ¼ cup whole milk. (*best to use whole milk with the herbs such as basil, since these ingredients tend to need more mixing and you don’t want to make whipped cream)

Then in a blender or food processor, add your milk or cream, your ingredients of choice and give it a quick pulse/mix. More time will be needed for herbs to fully chop/puree

Next step add the pint of vanilla ice-cream to the blender or processor, and give it several jolts from the pulse button to mix. The key is to do it fast and not let it get to a soupy state. I usually use a spatula or large spoon to help mix in between pulses from the blender.

Once your mixture is fully incorporated, pour into a container and place in the freezer immediately. Again you do not want it to be soupy, or the end product will tasty icy not smooth and creamy. For containers I like to use small (2 cup) plastic Tupperware style containers with lids, or small glass mason jars. *Tip if using glass jars, place them in the freezer to chill before adding your ice-cream mixture.

Freeze for 2-4 hours before serving…. Voila, you have a fabulous, gourmet-esc dessert you can impress your guests with. And it is really that easy!

And as a bonus....here is a fun party idea/theme I came up with that you might want to try at your next gathering-

The Ice-Cream Social

As the host, create a list of interesting ingredients, from fresh herbs, berries, candy, cookies, coffee/tea, etc., then send the list around with your invitation. Ask each of your guests to select 1-2 ingredients that best describe their personality and why.

Prior to the party review the selected ingredients and create a few different ice-cream

combinations that best reflect your guests’ choices (mixing different guests’ ingredients together). Feel free to get creative! As you make the ice-creams, come up with interesting names for the flavors to showcase your guests, i.e. Mike’s “Mellow” Mint with Rachel’s “Sassy” Raspberry. Place a sticker label or gift tag on the container to remember the flavor combo.

During the party bring your ice-creams out on a serving tray with bowls, spoons and some garnishes. Let guests serve themselves and try the various combinations.

Since I love to connect different groups of friends and match-make as well, I always find this a fun way to break the ice. It is definitely a conversation starter with the notion of “how well do we mix together”?

Thanks for reading…and I look forward to hearing from you about the interesting combinations you come up with!

Cheers and Happy Eating,
Em a la Mode aka Kitchen Princess

Photo and Styling Credit: by my dear friend Victoria del Rico *Luckily she works for food… And loves Cinnamon/Nutmeg Ice-cream J


1 Fork-Five Boroughs: A Food Frenzy to Celebrate New York’s Favorite Fare!

Last night, on a blissful evening, Tuesday, March 13, it seemed as though the New York weather was finally in full “spring” ahead. I gladly shed my winter coat as I headed out for the 5th Annual Village Voice Choice Eats Event at the 69th Armory on Lexington Avenue.

The event, hosted by by Village Voice resident food critics, Robert Sietsema and Lauren Shockey, hand-picked each of participating restaurants to showcase. Choice Eats is one of New York City's favored food fête’s where one can sample food from the most sought after restaurants across all the cities boroughs all under one roof for one night.

After a short cab ride downtown, I arrived on the scene and quickly toured the space before the crowds started flooding in. I was lucky enough to map out my food journey ahead for the evening,but in order to prep my palate, I stopped by to get an icy cold beverage at the Tito’s Handmade Vodka table, where Matt Purpura, Tito’s Brand Ambassador graciously mixed up a special “spirited” cocktail before sending me on my way.

My first stop was the Meatball Shop, they were dishing out an herbed chicken meatball garnished with sautéed asparagus tips and mushrooms in some sort of brown gravy-ish sauce. It was well seasoned and hit the spot in true comfort food fashion!

I then moved on to see my friends over at Ditch Plains. Chef Marc Murphy was serving up his infamous Mac-n-Cheese Hot Dog! With a big smile on his “good looking” face, he handed me a bite which was oozing with melty, decedent cheese! It was dangerously good! As I swallowed the last morsel, I saw fellow food friend, Emily Karpin, who recently took a job with Chef Murphy and was helping to man his table for the evening. I always love to catch up with friendly faces at these large scale events, as they can be quite overwhelming at times! After chit chatting for a few minutes, I saw the crowds rolling in. I decided to get moving, especially if I wanted to taste my way around, as this event was expecting over 2000 hungry New Yorkers!

Next to Ditch Plains was the Red Hook Lobster Pound table, where a Lady Gaga look-a-like was providing some form of entertainment (I think). Either way, I made sure to grab one of their shrimp rolls before the lines got too intense. I didn’t particularly care for the roll, unfortunately, as there were scallions on top (and those of you who know me well, know I despise any form of raw onion), and it was also a little too heavy handed on the mayo. But, I will give props to them for the bun, it was toasted to buttery perfection and the inside was pillowey and soft!

Across the room I noticed a circus like novelty, the Dirt Candy table was making Tomato Chipotle Cotton Candy. I maneuvered my way through the wall of people and get a stick of the fluffy stuff. It was sweet on the initial taste, but lingered with a spicy smoky savory finish. It was definitely the most interesting thing I tried throughout the evening! Not saying I loved it and I’m craving more, but I have to give it up to them for uniqueness!

As I made my way around the event, I was able to try many different bites from several of the featured restaurants. It seemed that pork was the most popular ingredient of the evening, and noticed at least 10 restaurants dishing it out in some form.

The longest food lines seemed to bellow out from Luke’s Lobster Bar, Goat Town and Red Hook Lobster Pound, along with any of the wine, beer and spirit tables. One complaint I had about the event, was the location of the beverage tables. They were all grouped together, making it a cluster to get to them, rather than spacing them throughout the room.

After a few hours of sampling in a room that now felt like a sauna, my stomach was full and I was beat, so I decided to call it a night!

Food highlights included:

Ample Hills Creamery (Brooklyn): Salted Carmel Ice-cream! This was hands down the best thing I tasted all night…and I’m not even an ice-cream person. It was rich, smooth, artisanal, with the perfect amount of sweetness, and had some sort of toffee style cookies in it, making it ridiculously good!

Porchetta (NYC): Toasted Crostini with braised porchetta ragu. This was craveable! It had a rich tomato back from the ragu and pork that was perfectly braised. It was also easy to eat (only 2 bites and no mess), which is always a big plus at events.

Resto (NYC): Boudin Noir Baked Beans with House Made Jersey Pork Roll. I love this restaurant…they are always serving up quality food in my book, and it held true for this dish.

The Blue Stove (Brooklyn): Decadent Chocolate Bourbon Balls. These girls had the cutest and well-designed table and overall concept. They also made some mean balls, yum!

Brooklyn Brine (Brooklyn): Damn Fine Pickles…and they were! Served whole, and had a smoky note, not too salty. The main pickler said he ages them in Whiskey Barrels which is why they have a bit of char of the nose.

Xi’an Famous Foods (NYC): Cold Skin Noodles. These were awesome! The noodles are all hand-pulled and were served in a citrus spicy vinegar sauce, with veggies and shrimp

Dean Street (Brooklyn): Pulled Pork Sliders on Brioche Buns. The pork was cooked and seasoned perfectly….’nuf said!

All and all it was a fun event and I’m glad I was able to partake!

Cheers and Happy Eating until we meet at the next soirée


Em a la Mode