Explore. Imagine. Love.

Purposeful parenting amid a world of sugar, screens and schedules.


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Fun With Plain Pancakes

I did a post on how we make plain yogurt fun. ¬†I do the same thing with pancakes…although it’s not as healthy perhaps ūüėČ ¬†I really love pancakes and since I eat gluten free, I don’t have as many fun breakfast options. ¬†So I make my own, semi-healthy pancakes OR use a box mix like Bob Redmill’s gluten free pancake mix, and then do fun things to them. ¬†You don’t need any fancy recipe. ¬†Just make your normal pancakes and add some stuff to it!

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Confetti: We do this for birthdays sometimes or Valentines Day.  I just add a little bit of almond extract. Not much because a little goes a long way.  Like 1/8 tsp.  Then add sprinkles.  And to make it really delicious I serve it with like a cream cheese frosting type of concoction.  I whip up a little heavy cream and then blend in cream cheese and some honey.

Cinnamon Roll: Have you tried cinnamon chips?  They are SO good.  I just add cinnamon chips to plain pancakes and then eat them with the cream cheese frosting concoction I mentioned above.  I tried a recipe for cinnamon roll pancakes from pinterest and it was kind of ridiculous.  They were a lot of work and stuck to my pan.  I might have done something wrong.  But these are crazy easy and taste just as good, if not better.  In fact, I kind of want some right now.

Chocolate Chip: Just add chocolate chips.  I like doing this with pumpkin pancakes too sometimes.

Pumpkin: Add a spoonful or two of canned or homemade pumpkin puree.  Throw in some cinnamon.  A little bit of nutmeg and cloves optional.  Yum!

Applesauce: Just add applesauce and cinnamon and you have yourself some yummy apple pancakes.  Applesauce is cool because you can leave out the oil in a recipe if you use it.

Carrot Cake: I just made these and am editing this post to include them. ¬†They were really yummy. ¬†I added some flax, applesauce, shredded carrots, pur√©ed carrots (it was a little too appley from the applesauce before I added them…I just used some from a jar of baby food I had in the cupboard. ¬†It would probably be especially yummy if you steamed and mooshed up fresh carrots though!), cinnamon, and just a bit of ground cloves, allspice, and nutmeg…but those are optional. I didn’t have raisins and I am not a fan of nuts in my baked goods. I did have some cinnamon chips though and decided to add those rather than to make the healthier choice and leave them out. ūüėČ ¬†Then I made the whipped cream, cream cheese stuff I mentioned above, but also added a bit of sour cream this time which I thought was especially delicious. ¬†It was a hit!
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Banana: Banana pancakes are not only delicious but an awesome option if you run out of eggs. ¬†I can’t tell you how many times I’m in bed and my kids ask for pancakes and I agree, only to find that all the eggs are gone. ¬†If you mash up some banana and throw that in your pancake batter, you don’t need eggs.

Flax: I just throw flax in everything. ¬†Smoothies, anything and everything that I bake. ¬†Ground flaxseed contains a lot of omega-3’s. ¬†You can do this with all the other options listed here.

Buttermilk: I just use buttermilk¬†instead of milk depending on what I’m going for. ¬†I think buttermilk makes any regular pancake taste amazing. ¬†It really changes the consistency of the batter though and makes them really puffy. ¬†So you’ll want to make the pancakes smaller than you would normally want them and they’ll puff out. ¬†You can do buttermilk along with any of the other ideas listed here if you want. ¬†I usually don’t do it with applesauce or bananas though. I feel like the flavors would compete a bit.

Coconut Milk: When I am dairy free, I mostly use coconut milk to replace milk in my baking. ¬†Coconut milk and just a touch of cinnamon makes a good pancake. ¬†They don’t brown up the way they normally do though. ¬†I also do coconut milk with any of the other ideas listed here.

Berries IN: Sometimes I put the berries in the pancake batter…and in that case I will squeeze the berries as I add them. ¬†That way the flavor gets all into the batter rather than just having the normal pancake flavor and bites of berries. ¬†My favorites to do this with are blueberries, raspberries and huckleberries.

Berries ON: I also like to make buttermilk pancakes and put berries on top. ¬†If you put about a cup of berries in a sauce pan with a small amount of water and cornstarch (like a fourth cup water and a tsp cornstarch mixed together before adding to the heat so you don’t get clumps) the berries will let out their juices and mix with the water and cornstarch and thicken into a sauce. ¬†Very delicious. You can add some sweetener to it if you want.

Oats: I’ve added oats before and didn’t love it. ¬†But I always buy normal oats. ¬†We had family here for Christmas though and they left behind some quick oats. ¬†I added those to some pancakes today and they were awesome. ¬†Makes a really hearty pancake.

Combo: Today I actually did a little applesauce, some crushed fresh blueberries, ground flax, a touch of cinnamon, coconut milk, and kind of a hefty amount of quick oats.  It was so amazingly delicious.

Do you tweak your pancakes?  Please share!  Thanks for reading.


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Fun With Plain Yogurt

I buy plain yogurt for my kids because the flavored yogurt has so much sugar added.  I actually hope to start making my own yogurt because they go through so much of it.  I have seen directions on pinterest about how you can make yogurt in the crockpot from milk.  Worth a shot!

When my kids are old enough to eat yogurt, I start them right away with plain yogurt without anything in it. ¬†Now that they are older, they¬†are still accustomed to the taste and think it’s good the way it is…which is awesome because I think it is too tart. ¬†But sometimes they want to make it a bit more fun. ¬†So I thought I’d share some ways that we make plain yogurt fun.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Yogurt

Adams peanut butter is one of our favorite things. ¬†The girls want peanut butter everything…toast, yogurt, cookies, sandwiches…spoonfuls. ¬†ūüėČ ¬†I like it because the ingredients are: peanuts. ¬†So I have no problem adding some peanut butter to their yogurt. ¬†In order to make it peanut butter chocolate yogurt, I add the tiniest drop of chocolate syrup or I add a pinch of mini chocolate chips. ¬†But it is tasty, and of course healthier, without any chocolate.

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This is actually pumpkin yogurt with chocolate chips. A special Halloween breakfast.

Pumpkin Yogurt

Pumpkin puree is something we always have on hand. ¬†Homemade or in the can. ¬†In order to make pumpkin yogurt, I simply add a big spoonful of pumpkin to some plain yogurt and mix in some cinnamon and a tiny bit of nutmeg and/or cloves. ¬†Sometimes for extra fun I will crumble just a bit of graham cracker on top. ¬†We don’t usually have graham crackers in the house but we’ll have them leftover from s’mores or a holiday dessert and the kids love it.

Applesauce, Banana or Other Fruit

Applesauce (unsweetened) and bananas add a sweetness that makes plain yogurt palatable for me. ¬†When I eat yogurt, I will usually mash a banana with plain yogurt and add some berries. ¬†I don’t have to mush up a banana for the girls. ¬†They think it is fun when I give them plain yogurt with some raspberries, blueberries or huckleberries.

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Birthday yogurt!

Sprinkles

On birthdays if I don’t have another special breakfast planned, I will put a bit of frosting in their yogurt with sprinkles to make birthday yogurt. ¬†They think it’s a really awesome breakfast treat. ¬†They loved it so much that we now put sprinkles on their yogurt more often.

Any other ideas out there?  What do you do to make plain yogurt fun?  

Thanks for reading!


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Campfire Curry

I have really been enjoying cooking over the campfire or even at home on the bbq grill. ¬†We do not have air conditioning in our house and using the oven or stove or even the crock pot for long periods of time can really make being in our house unbearable on the hottest days. ¬†So here’s another tinfoil meal for you to try.

Campfire Curry Tinfoil Dinner

CAMPFIRE CURRY

The amounts that I have in parentheses made 4 packets

INGREDIENTS

  • Pre-cooked chicken (I used 3 large chopped chicken breasts, a tbsp of coconut oil, and a tbsp of curry)
  • Onion (1)
  • Carrots (2)
  • Red pepper (1)
  • Peas or green beans or asparagus (I used asparagus- about 6 spears)
  • Optional: toss in some more veggies like mushrooms (I used mushrooms in mine but the rest of my family does not like them), cabbage (I diced up some cabbage- I like to do that rather than use rice or noodles), or try throwing in some pre-cooked rice
  • Coconut milk (1 can)
  • Curry powder (about 2 tbsp or to taste)
  • Sweet chili sauce (about 1 tbsp or to taste)
  • Corn starch or arrowroot (about 1 tbsp)
  • Optional: I have not tried this over the campfire, but one of my favorite kinds of curry is pineapple curry. ¬†So you could try adding some pineapple chunks to your packet and some pineapple juice to the coconut mixture…and perhaps a touch of soy sauce. ¬†You might need a little bit more corn starch or arrowroot to thicken it because of the pineapple juice.

DIRECTIONS

I don‚Äôt like messing with raw chicken…especially when mixing it with veggies and cooking it over the inconsistent flames of a campfire. ¬†So I chopped mine up and cooked it at home in a little oil and curry powder and then threw it in tupperware to bring camping.

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Chop up your veggies and place them on your tin foil with your chicken.

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Mix your coconut milk, curry, sweet chili sauce, and thickener and pour it over the top. If you get the full fat coconut milk it will be a lot thicker, which is good…less runny. ¬†If you like to prep beforehand, mixing your sauce together at home and pre-chopping your veggies could save on space and time while camping.

*Another option* If you heat up your sauce in a saucepan either at home or over the campfire before adding it to your packet, it will thicken up a lot better and will make it all turn out thicker and tastier. ¬†Just bring it to bubbling and keep stirring it. ¬†The corn starch/arrowroot will kick in and thicken it up. ¬†If it doesn’t, you can add more but you’ll need to mix it¬†with a cool liquid, like water, pineapple juice or chicken broth before adding it to the hot mixture or you will have chunks.

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Once your chicken, veggies and sauce are in your tinfoil packet, throw it on the fire. See my general tin foil cooking tips for more info.

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You don’t have to worry too much about how long you cook it since the chicken is pre-cooked. ¬†If your carrots, onion, etc. are cooked to your liking, then it is done! ¬†Enjoy ūüôā

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This one was mine…mushrooms….mmm ūüėČ


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Baked Bean Tinfoil Stew

Baked Bean Tinfoil Stew

Baked Bean Tinfoil Stew by Explore Imagine Love

 

I make things that I’ve made up all the time and it’s different every time because I never write down exactly what I do. ¬†So when I write a “recipe” it is just a guess at the amounts I used. ¬†Feel free to change it to your taste or to make more or less for a different number of people. ¬†I made three large tinfoil packets with this for my husband and I and the two girls. ¬†We ended up having some leftovers.

  • Ground beef- 1 lb
  • Baked beans- large can or 1 cans
  • Black beans- 1 can
  • Navy beans- 1 can
  • Onion- one, diced
  • Ketchup- about 3/4 cup
  • Smoked paprika or liquid smoke- about 1 tsp
  • Worcestershire sauce- about 2 tbsp
  • Cider vinegar- optional- about 1 tsp
  • Bacon- optional- dice up maybe 6 strips and put it on the bottom of the tin foil to make sure it gets cooked through

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I split the ground beef into thirds and tear it up into small pieces so that it is not just a blob that we have to cut up later. Dice an onion and add that to the tinfoil with some of each of the beans. Mix a bunch of ketchup with a little worcestershire sauce, cider vinegar and smoked paprika (or liquid smoke) and mix that in. I just poured mine on top but it’s pretty thick and sticky and stuck to the tinfoil a bit so mixing it in would help.  Does not have to cook as long as something with potatoes or other hard veggies- just make sure the beef is done.  Enjoy!  Yummy to eat with fritos or corn bread muffins or with a dollop of sour cream.

Check out my general tinfoil cooking tips for more info.


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Tin Foil Enchiladas

As a part of my tin-foil meals series, I introduce to you…

Tin Foil Enchiladas by Explore Imagine Love

Tin Foil Enchiladas

  • Shredded pre-cooked chicken (cooked up with a bit of oil, garlic and onion…or try bbq pulled pork!)* see note below
  • Black beans
  • Cheese
  • Tortillas- I use corn
  • “Spanish” rice (pre cooked** see note below)
  • Onion
  • Enchilada sauce
  • Salsa
  • Optional- throw in some other veggies- canned corn, peppers, etc. ¬†Hot sauce, sour cream or avocados to eat with it.

You could probably just bring some of everything and throw it in tinfoil together.  But what I did was make some spanish rice at home and then mixed it with the shredded chicken (cooked up with onion and garlic), salsa, and black beans.  Then it’s all ready to go!  I just threw it in a big ziplock storage bag until it was ready to use.  I made enough for several meals so we actually did some in the oven and some in tin foil packets.

I laid some tortillas down, put the chicken/rice/bean mixture on them, threw on a bunch of cheese, put another layer of tortillas on, and then covered it with enchilada sauce.  I also tried rolling some up like a normal enchilada but they leaked more and with cheese on the tinfoil they stuck to the bottom more than the other ones.  Tasted the same though.  So I would recommend doing it the other way.  My family loves enchiladas and these were just as good as when we make them in the oven- definitely a hit!

Check out my general tin foil cooking tips for more info.

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I made a giant batch for several meals so I used about 5 chicken breasts, 2 cans of black beans, 2 cups uncooked rice- cooked and made into spanish rice, over a pound of cheese, one onion, two large cans of enchilada sauce, and a jar of salsa.  But like I said, this was not just for tin foil meals.  It made a LOT.  So scale it down to what you need it for.

* For shredded chicken, you can just throw some chicken breasts…frozen or thawed…into a pot of water and slowly boil it until it easily falls apart as you pull it apart with two forks. ¬†Crock pot works great too. ¬†Especially if you are doing pulled pork. ¬†For pulled pork, you can get any kind of cheap pork (shoulder, rump, etc.) and stick it in your crockpot all day with some bbq sauce or something. ¬†I usually do a mixture of ketchup, honey, a bit of worcestershire and A1, smoked paprika, garlic and minced onion bits.

**For the spanish rice, I just made some brown rice in my rice cooker and mixed it with diced tomatoes, cumin, garlic, and onion. ¬†But there are some good, more legitimate recipes online if you prefer. ¬†I didn’t bother to make it really awesome because I knew I was just going to be mixing it with a bunch of other stuff.

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These turned out so well.  They are always good in the oven but you never know how something is going to work out over the campfire until you try it.  These were a huge success.  Even my picky toddler and preschooler gobble these down.  I hope you give them a try if you are looking for different ideas for outdoor cooking.

Happy campfire cooking! ¬†Thanks for reading ūüôā


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Tin Foil Camping Meals: Intro and Original Recipes

I grew up having family reunions every other year. ¬†We would camp for an entire week.¬† I would go up with my grandparents because my mom had to work during the week and she would join us for the weekend. ¬†Those weeks were full of awesomeness. ¬†It was a time to run off with cousins and explore creeks, forests, and rock ‚Äúcastles.‚ÄĚ ¬†It was a time to play the bean bag toss game, horse shoes, and cards with my grandma. ¬†And it was a time for no-utensils spaghetti dinners and tin foil meals. ¬†Food when you are camping is always the best ever. ¬†I don‚Äôt remember what they put in those tin foil meals exactly…I just remember meat, bacon, onion and carrots. ¬†It was good though! ¬†When I went to college, my friend Nicki introduced me to ‚ÄúHobo Stew.‚ÄĚ ¬†It was delicious.

Since then,¬†I’ve¬†experimented a lot and made up my own recipes…and now I’m going to share them with you! ¬†I have quite¬†a few of them so they won’t all fit in one blog post. ¬†You’ll have to check back later for more.¬†

Tin foil dinners are good for camping of course…but do you have a house that heats up like crazy in the summer whenever you turn the oven on…and don‚Äôt have AC? ¬†Another reason I love tin foil meals. ¬†Throw it on the barbecue grill if you‚Äôre at home! ¬†I cook outside most of the summer. ¬†It‚Äôs nice to be able to get creative and do things other than grilled meat and veggies.

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My General Tin Foil Cooking Tips

When wrapping it, definitely use two or three layers of foil. ¬†You can either wrap it and flip it over and wrap it upside down so you can turn it over easily while cooking, or you can give it a top with a sturdy grabbing ‚Äúhandle.‚ÄĚ ¬†It is easier to open and check on it and eat it out of the foil the second way, but by not turning it over, you risk burning the bottom, so you have to watch it.

When I put it on the fire, I either put it on a rock on the side of the fire and make sure to turn it a lot so it cooks evenly, or I put it on a grill over the fire…trying to keep it over nice coals instead of flames. ¬†It burns easily but needs time to cook- especially if you‚Äôre using potatoes or they will be hard. ¬†You could bring pre-cooked potatoes and not worry about it. ¬†I‚Äôve never done that because I am not very good at remembering to prep before camping, but it seems like a good idea ūüôā ¬†If you aren‚Äôt using potatoes, this is not as big of an issue and you don‚Äôt have to leave it on nearly as long. ¬†Just make sure the meat is done and you‚Äôre good.

I use about ¬ľ or ‚Öď pound of meat for each packet. ¬†So I usually get about a pound for my family- I make three packets and have the girls split one. ¬†You‚Äôll have to just eyeball the rest- it really depends on how many people you‚Äôre feeding and how much stuff you‚Äôre putting in the packet. ¬†In my traditional hobo stew I typically I‚Äôll use ‚Öď pound of ground beef and a handful or two of each of the veggies. ¬†It is really easy to make your packet too large or too small on your first try.

 

Nicki’s Hobo Stew (what started my obsession…)

  • Ground beef
  • Cream of mushroom soup
  • Mushrooms
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Garlic
  • Cheese

Put the meat, chopped veggies, cheese and garlic on some tin foil.  Cover with cream of mushroom soup, wrap it up and throw it in the fire.  Check out my general tin foil cooking tips above for more info.

 

My Version of Hobo Stew

  • Ground beef
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Onion
  • Green pepper
  • Bacon
  • Ketchup (I changed to ketchup once I went gluten free)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • (I throw in other veggies sometimes- peas, asparagus, mushrooms, etc. ¬†Whatever I have and need to use up. ¬†I have also used sausage instead of hamburger, which is yummy.)

I break the ground beef apart into small pieces so that it’s not just one big blob that I have to cut up later.  I chop the bacon.  And I cut up the potatoes really small (they usually take the longest to cook.)  Those three things go on the bottom.  Then I dice the rest of the veggies and throw on some salt and pepper and cover it pretty good with ketchup.  See my general tin foil cooking tips above for more info.

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Come back soon for more tin foil recipes! ¬†I am excited to share my experiments with you ūüôā

*Posts I’ve done since this was originally published:

Campfire Curry

Baked Bean Tinfoil Stew

Tinfoil Enchiladas


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How I Made a S’Mores Ice Cream Cake

My big girl had a birthday¬†recently and she chose an Under the Sea/Little Mermaid swimming party theme. ¬†She changed her mind a million times but we finally landed on this…partly because I had the most fun coming up with ideas for it. ¬†You can check out my post on the party HERE, but this post is about how I made the ice cream cake.

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ICE CREAM CAKES WITH CAKE

Our first home made ice cream cake was made by my husband as a mother’s day gift. ¬†I love ice cream cakes but you don’t really get to have stuff like that…with cake anyway…when you have food issues like gluten intolerance. ¬†It took some time for sure, but the concept is simple. ¬†You bake your cake the way you would normally make a layered cake but maybe make your halves a little thinner than normal. ¬†Then you use the same baking pan and cover it with saran wrap. ¬†Let your ice cream soften a bit and press it into the pan to mold the same size as your cake. ¬†Once the ice cream is hard you just layer cake, ice cream, cake and frost it. ¬†Easy!

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HOW TO MAKE A S’MORES ICE CREAM CAKE

For Big Sis’s birthday I wanted to make a sand castle ice cream cake, using a sand castle bucket. ¬†I figured it would be pretty difficult figuring out a way to layer cake in there so I decided to just make cupcakes and then make the “cake” purely ice cream. ¬†Because the “sand” look is made with graham cracker crumbs, I thought I’d make it a s’mores cake.

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This is not really a recipe since you don’t have to cook anything. ¬†It is in no way healthy like the desserts I typically make (it was a birthday cake after all!) ¬†But I am really proud of it because I made it up myself. ¬†I feel like pinterest, although really awesome for inspiring creativity, also can take away any feeling of originality! ¬†But this was the original sand castle cake post, and although it was a wonderful inspiration (she did a fantastic job!), what I ended up doing was nothing like it. ¬†I am also going to talk about how I would make it a normal ice cream cake rather than a sand castle cake because it was sooo good, it should be made for all occasions, not just some beach/mermaid/swimming parties. ¬†Here it is:

What you need

  • Chocolate ice cream
  • Vanilla ice cream
  • 1 box of Graham crackers
  • 1 container of Cool whip
  • 1 container Marshmallow cream
  • 1/2 a packet of plain gelatin
  • 1/8 tsp Almond extract
  • 1/4 tsp Vanilla extract
  • Mini chocolate chips
  • Marshmallows- large if doing a sand castle, mini if not
  • Optional- chocolate syrup or melted chocolate to drizzle over the top if not doing a sand castle cake
  • Saran wrap
  • Pam spray??

Choose how you want your cake to look and find a container that produces that look. ¬†I used a sand castle bucket but I think I would use a bread pan otherwise…I think a rectangle would work well.

I used Pam spray on the inside of my bucket.  We had never done this using the small round cake pans but I thought it might be difficult to get out of a deep bucket (it was) and that the oil might help (not sure if it did.)

Cover your pan with saran wrap with plenty sticking out to help pull the ice cream out when the time comes.

Let your cool whip sit out a bit so it’s not too cold (especially if you had it in the freezer.) ¬†Whip up your marshmallow cream with a bit of cool whip with a hand mixer and slowly add more cool whip. ¬†Add your vanilla and almond extract and the 1/2 packet of gelatin and mix all together. ¬†Cover and put in the fridge.

Let your ice cream soften a bit so that you can easily smoosh it into the shape of your pan/bucket.

Put your graham crackers in a gallon ziplock and crush with a rolling pin until it’s pretty fine and you’ve broken up all the big chunks.

Layer: ¬†vanilla ice cream; layer of the cool whip/marshmallow cream frosting, graham cracker crumbs, mini chocolate chips; chocolate ice cream; layer of frosting, cracker crumbs, chocolate chips. ¬†Repeat until your pan is full or you use all your ice cream or it’s as big as you want it. ¬†Cover it with saran wrap and put it in the freezer to harden (I let it sit over night.) ¬†Put your coolwhip/marshmallow mixture back in the fridge. ¬† (*I actually didn’t layer it like this- I only did the frosting/crumb/choc chip layer in the middle of the cake rather than between each layer of ice cream. ¬†But I loved it so much I thought it needed more. ¬†Do what you think is best.)

Once it’s ready, close to the time you are going to serve it, do what you need to do to get the ice cream out of the container. ¬†Pat the sides, hit the top, pull on the saran wrap…it was difficult with the deep bucket.

Put it on the plate or serving platter you intend to use.  For the sandcastle cake, I frosted the platter and put cracker crumbs down before putting the ice cream cake on.  Frost it with the coolwhip/marshmallow mixture and cover it with graham cracker crumbs.  Kind of tricky to get the sides.  I kind of threw it on.

For a sandcastle cake, take large marshmallows and dip them in the frosting and cover them with cracker crumbs and put them on the top of the castle. ¬†If you aren’t doing a castle, I would suggest putting mini marshmallows and chocolate chips all over the top in a decorative kind of way and maybe drizzle some chocolate over the top. ¬†Put it back in the freezer until ready to serve.

I was thinking if you wanted to do it with cake and not just ice cream, you could do a round cake like I described above and use layers of chocolate cake instead of chocolate ice cream.  

 

Well, there you have it. ¬†I was pretty detailed with my instructions so it is kind of a lot to read, but it really wasn’t very difficult at all. ¬†Especially since I didn’t incorporate layers of cake. ¬†Just smooshing ice cream together is pretty simple ¬†ūüėȬ†

Let me know if you try it out!  Thanks for reading.