If you like to scream for ice cream, there’s no better time than summer’s warm days and evenings to enjoy the creamy dessert.

While a simple ice cream cone or a dish with a scoop of your favorite flavor from the local ice cream parlor is a welcome treat, there are many, many easy ways to incorporate ice cream into your dessert-making at home. Homemade ice cream desserts will become favorite dishes to serve guests and can be made days in advance in many cases.

Even if making a dessert, such as an ice cream cake, ahead of time is not on your agenda, there’s not anything much simpler or popular than setting up an ice cream sundae bar. We did one to celebrate the last regular season softball game for our daughter’s team this spring.

Typically the final game is an occasion for a bakery cake or cupcakes, but we decided to do something a little different with the sundaes. We heard lots of happy comments as the girls, coaches and parents went through the line.

The sundae bar had a variety of toppings including crushed Oreos, mini M&M's, peanuts, sprinkles, marshmallows, toffee bits, strawberries, gummy bears, bananas, caramel topping, homemade hot fudge sauce and whipped topping. Everyone could customize their own sundaes, so there were no complaints. We will likely do it again for her summer softball team at the final tournament. Why not?

I make an easy strawberry sauce to top vanilla ice cream with too. To make it, simply rinse, hull and chop a pint of fresh strawberries and gather a teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1/3 cup of sugar. Set aside about a third of the chopped berries. Put the rest in a saucepan and combine with the sugar. Bring it to a boil and cook while stirring for 5 to 10 minutes, until the sauce thickens.

Remove from heat and add the vanilla and the reserved berries. Allow it to cool to room temperature before serving over ice cream. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for two weeks.

Ice cream is an easy way to bring a smile to someone’s face. Don’t let summer slip away without enjoying it in as many ways as possible.

Thomas can be reached at janellethomas@charter.net.

Caramel Fudge Ice Cream Cake With Pretzel Crust

4 C mini pretzels

1/2 C butter

1.75 quart French vanilla ice cream

12 oz jar hot caramel topping

12 oz jar hot fudge topping

In a large resealable bag, crush pretzels with a rolling pin. Melt butter in the microwave. In a bowl, combine the crushed pretzels and melted butter. Spread the pretzel mixture on the bottom of a lightly greased 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish and gently press down to form a crust. Put the pretzel crust in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Divide the ice cream into thirds. Layer the first third of ice cream on top of the pretzel crust. Put the hot fudge in the microwave for 45 seconds. Drizzle half of it on top of the first ice cream layer. Next, place another layer of ice cream on top of the hot fudge. Put the hot caramel in the microwave for 45 seconds. Drizzle half of it on top of the second ice cream layer.

Spread the rest of the ice cream on top of the caramel layer and lightly smooth with a spoon.

Drizzle the remaining caramel and hot fudge across the top of the ice cream cake. Note: You may need to reheat the caramel and hot fudge in the microwave for an additional 30 seconds to make it easier to drizzle.

Place in freezer overnight. Let it sit on the counter for 5 to 10 minutes to soften a little before serving. Recipe and photo courtesy of kenarry.com.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream Sandwiches

1/2 C (1 stick) butter

1/3 C packed light brown sugar

1/4 C granulated sugar

2 Tbsp milk

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/4 tsp salt

1¼ C all-purpose flour

1 C mini chocolate chips

Nonstick cooking spray

Quart cookie dough ice cream, softened to spreadable consistency

For the cookie dough, in a large microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter with the brown and granulated sugar. Stir to combine. Stir in the milk, vanilla and salt until well blended. Stir in the flour until completely smooth. Let the mixture cool completely (so the chocolate chips don't melt) then stir in the chocolate chips.

Line an 8-by-8-inch baking pan (preferably with very straight sides) with two pieces of parchment paper (cut into 8-inch strips) so they extend well beyond the edges of the pan on all four sides; this will help to lift up and easily remove the frozen sandwiches.

Scatter half of the dough into the pan and use your hands to press it into an even layer.

Top with a second set of parchment strips that extend over each side. Lightly coat the parchment with nonstick cooking spray. Scatter the remaining dough over the top and press into an even layer.

Fold the overhanging parchment over the dough and freeze for at least an hour (can be frozen for several days in advance.)

Use the parchment strips hanging over the edge to lift out the top layer of cookie dough. Then remove the second layer.

Place another set of parchment slings in the pan. Peel the parchment from one square of cookie dough and set it inside the pan with the smoothest side down.

Spread the softened ice cream over the top into an even layer. Peel the parchment from the remaining square of cookie dough and place it, smoothest side up, on the ice cream. Gently press it into the ice cream.

Cover the pan (with the parchment overhangs, if desired) and freeze for at least 2 to 3 hours but preferably 6 to 8. Using a long, sharp knife, run it under hot water, wipe dry, and slice the cookie dough ice cream sandwiches into squares, repeating with hot water after each slice (you can lift up on the handles to remove it from the pan before slicing. I found I had to run a knife around the edges to loosen any ice cream that had stuck to the pan corners). Eat fast so they don't melt! Makes 9 sandwiches. Recipe and photo courtesy of melskitchencafe.com.

Peanut Buster Ice Cream Sandwich Cake

2 12-oz jars hot fudge sauce

3/4 C creamy peanut butter

20 ice cream sandwiches

12-oz container frozen whipped topping, thawed

1 C chopped, salted peanuts

Place hot fudge sauce in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high until hot, but do not let the fudge boil. Stir peanut butter into hot fudge until smooth. Let cool to room temperature.

Line the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with ice cream sandwiches, trimming sandwiches to fit, as needed.

Spread half of whipped topping over sandwiches. Place dessert in freezer for about 15 minutes, or until whipped topping is firm. Remove from freezer and spread half of fudge mixture over the whipped topping. Sprinkle with half of the peanuts.

Repeat the layers, ending with hot fudge and peanuts. Freeze until firm, about 2 hours. Cut into squares to serve. Drizzle with additional hot fudge sauce, if desired. Makes 16 servings. Recipe and photo courtesy of letsdishrecipes.com.

Twix Ice Cream Bars

1¼ C flour

3 Tbsp cornstarch

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 C brown sugar

7 Tbsp butter, softened

2 tsp cold water

Vanilla ice cream

1 jar caramel ice cream topping

1 C milk chocolate chips

1 Tbsp heavy cream

Whisk together flour, cornstarch, salt and sugar. Add butter and mash with your hands until mixture resembles fine coarse crumbs. Add cold water and continue to mash until dough comes together. Press the dough into a ball and wrap it in plastic wrap. Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 9-by-9-inch pan with cooking spray. Press dough into the pan. Bake for 30 minutes or until a light golden brown. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack. For the vanilla ice cream, the easiest method is to use vanilla ice cream that comes in the block.

Cut off two 1/2-inch slices of ice cream and place them side by side on top of the shortbread so you have one layer of ice cream covering all of the shortbread. Pour caramel sauce over the ice cream and put the pan in the freezer.

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate chips and heavy cream for 2 minutes on half power. Stir the chocolate chips, then return to the microwave for 20 seconds at a time, stirring between each, until chocolate is melted and smooth.

Pour the chocolate over the caramel layer and return the pan to the freezer. Freeze for at least 30 minutes. Immediately before serving remove from freezer, cut into bars, and serve. Makes 9 servings. Recipe and photo courtesy of lecremedelacrumb.com.

Easy Brownie Ice Cream Sundae Trifle

Brownies, prepared and cut into small squares to fill bottom of trifle dish (a boxed version is fine)

1/2 gallon favorite ice cream flavor

Caramel sauce

Hot fudge sauce

Large can whipped cream or Cool Whip

Cherries

In a large trifle dish, layer the brownie pieces on the bottom. Top with all the ice cream. Pour on caramel and hot fudge sauce. Mound up the whipped cream and top with a cherry. Serve immediately. Recipe and photo courtesy of hugsandcookiesxoxo.com.