During our high school years, one of us (hint: her name starts with a B) worked at Cold Stone Creamery. She loved working there, and from this love emerged a fascination with adding creative ingredients to plain ol' vanilla ice cream.
We now keep this blank palate of frozen goodness in our freezer at all times and are constantly amazed by the endless combinations that can be made by adding in just a few ingredients.
To give you some idea of what can be done, here are our favorite combos that each use only three add-ins at a time. Try creating any of these dynamic ice cream flavors, and you'll never eat simple vanilla ice cream again.
We love our green-hued, mint chocolate chip ice cream from the grocery store, but more often than not, we crave it when there's none in the house—and when we don't want to venture to the market.
We successfully experimented with adding minced fresh mint (chocolate mint, to be exact), chocolate shavings, and a bit of peppermint extract. The flavor was profound, intense, and wonderful. Although you aren't getting that same pretty green color, the end result of a DIY mint chocolate chip ice cream is fantastic and entirely worth it.
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A blackberry pie + vanilla ice cream will forever be a staple in our dessert-loving kitchen. However, the time required to create such a complex sweet treat is simply not available. And other times, you have pie fail and your dessert dreams are dashed (at least in the moment).
One evening when we were long on sweets-craving but short on time, we threw some buttery white chocolate chips and blackberry jam into our bowl of vanilla ice cream. It was divine as it was, but we felt a little something was still missing. When we added in regular chocolate chips, we knew this was the ultimate trifecta of fruity, chocolatey goodness.
Another stumble-upon creation came about when we craved dessert but thought we had nothing on hand that would make for good ice cream additions. Challenge accepted!
This citrus/sweet/salty flavor combo takes the (ice cream) cake for a uniquely delicious after-dinner treat. We double-dare you not to love it, too.
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Remember how much you loved Cap'n Crunch when you were a kid? You and the captain, make it happen! We, too, have a sweet spot in our hearts for the original, crunchy, sweetened corn-and-oat cereal.
We're fans of the peanut butter variety, too, and enjoy both versions with bananas on top, served in a bowl of ice-cold milk.
So, why not mix both types into some vanilla ice cream and add some slices of banana? The crunchy, creamy combo shows that you don't always have to choose—sometimes, you can have it all (with bananas)!
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A slightly fancier option to share now: pecans with balsamic reduction and orange liqueur. Posh, right? This is especially good when you use leftover candied or toasted pecans (from a prepared salad, perhaps), but that's not even necessary for the tastes to soar.
Blend raw pecans, balsamic reduction, and a teeny bit of orange liqueur, and you have a frozen feast fit for a king. Karen from 2 Teaspoons does her own variation of pecan-centric ice cream with a drizzle of olive oil and a dash of black pepper.
Ah, the best of both beverage worlds: coffee and beer, where morning and evening drinks commingle in a universe of liquid wonder.
Porter beer is a dark-style beer made from brown malt. Pair this rich brew with the intense, earthy taste of coffee grounds and the sweet subtlety of homemade whipped cream (or ice cream) and you have a near-perfect flavor combo.
But Maria from Sift and Whisk likes to add chocolate-covered pretzels to her porter-coffee ice cream, and we think she's onto something glorious.
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When we saw a post on The Little Epicurean that suggested putting popcorn, M&M's, and candy bars in vanilla ice cream, our minds were blown. Our Saturday movie nights have never been as eagerly anticipated as they are now.
If you're into a bit of ice cream experimentation, try caramel corn instead of regular popcorn, or try peanut M&M's instead of regular. Even try Snickers bars as your candy bar of choice.
We love the flavor of chai tea but often drink it only in the morning or early afternoon, as it contains caffeine and will keep us up until the wee hours counting sheep if we drink it at night.
However, a mini bowl of vanilla ice cream sprinkled with cinnamon and nutmeg and dusted with tea leaves won't keep us from our much-needed slumber. Yes, our chai tea love has finally found its post-dusk place in our world.
But take all three things and add them to vanilla ice cream? You'll want to snuggle up in the corner with your bowl of bounty and never come out. For an adventurously fruity variation, try using blueberry waffles instead of plain. Your mouth and your stomach will thank you.
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With the warmer months approaching, we hope these creative yet uncomplicated ice cream hacks give you some sweet post-dinner inspiration.
Have any favorite ice cream fold-in tricks you'd like to share? Please leave them in the comments below. We'd love to glean some ice cream inspiration from our fellow food-loving pals.
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