“The Bomb” Ice Cream Sundae — A Tribute to My Grandmother

My grandmother, my Italian Nonna, passed away a few weeks ago.

Memories with Nonna
Memories with Nonna

Nonna Joanne was a fount of confidence, faith, and joy. A meticulous organizer, my Nonna was the boss, the life of the party. Nothing mischievous could get past her. I’ll always remember her laugh, her voice on the phone as she always, without fail, told me how proud of me she was. Though we were only able to see my grandparents twice a year, my Nonna took full advantage of her visits with us. We would play cards together for hours. While she had me and my two sisters at the table, she would chat with us about our lives. The most important lesson she taught me was how to be assertive. There is a way to stand up for yourself without being aggressive or terribly passive. In those chats with her, I learned how to be proud of myself and how to never let anyone else’s mean behavior get in the way of my happiness.

In our summer visits to Massachusetts, it was tradition for me, my sisters, and Nonna to make an ice cream sundae she affectionately titled “The Bomb.” We’d be watching television in the library after dinner, and then suddenly she would say “let’s make the bomb!” We knew exactly what she meant. Down we went to the kitchen, where we grabbed the necessary sweets for this scrumptious concoction.

Nonna Joanne and I, with "The Bomb" Ice Cream Sundae
Nonna Joanne and I, with “The Bomb” Ice Cream Sundae

First, we had to have a fudgy brownie on the bottom. We usually used vanilla ice cream, but moose tracks was an extra special treat. Spoon hot fudge sauce on top of that, lather on the whipped cream, and then top off the sundae with a maraschino cherry or a “truffle” as my Nonna called it. In this picture it looks like we put an Oreo on top!

Though my Nonna is no longer with us in body, she is most definitely with us in spirit. She lives on in my heart as a woman who celebrated life and all of its infinite joys. Ice cream sundaes were one of those little joys she wished to share with her granddaughters.

I made “The Bomb” ice cream sundae yesterday in tribute to her. The sundae may seem simplistic to some, but for me the process of making it fills me with the sweetest of memories.

"The Bomb" Ice Cream Sundae
“The Bomb” Ice Cream Sundae

“The Bomb” Ice Cream Sundae

  • 1 fudgy brownie (You owe it to yourself to make Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownies. I use no other brand.)
  • 1 scoop of vanilla ice cream (Any flavor will do, but I prefer something vanilla based for this sundae.)
  • hot fudge sauce
  • whipped cream
  • 1 maraschino cherry, Oreo cookie, or “truffle”

1. Make one batch of brownies. You can use your own recipe. If you use a brownie mix, buy Ghirardelli. You will not be sorry.

2. Take one brownie (as big as you want), and place in a bowl.

3. Top the brownie with one scoop of vanilla ice cream.

4. Warm hot fudge in the microwave per the package’s instructions. If you make your own, even better!

5. Pour the desired amount of hot fudge on top of the ice cream and brownie.

6. Add your desired amount of whipped cream on top.

7. Finally, top the sundae with a maraschino cherry, Oreo, or “truffle”

The sundae is simple, and simple is best in this case. Everyone’s sundae will come out differently, and that’s the point. Making “The Bomb” sundae allowed my sisters and I to celebrate our uniqueness. Who knew making ice cream sundaes could be so profound?

Here’s to you, Nonna Joanne. Thank you for influencing the woman I have become. Thank you for making the best ice cream sundaes in the world with me. They are, truly, “the bomb.”

Homemade Applesauce

Fall is my favorite season for food. Farms ignite with produce, and the market becomes one colorful treat. Pumpkin is the craze (naturally!) with squash not far behind.

A few weeks ago two of my best friends from college flew to Boston from Chicago to visit me for a quintessential New England weekend. While we walked the Freedom Trail and went to a Red Sox game at Fenway, I knew that no New England fall was complete without going apple picking. There is something so satisfying about picking your own produce from the farm. Couple that satisfaction with hayrides and cider doughnuts and, oh man, you have the best day ever.

I chose to take my friends to Russell Orchards in Ipswich, MA. About 50 minutes from the city, Ipswich is unique in the sense that there can be abundant farms just ten minutes away from the ocean. We were able to pick Cortland, Empire, Gala, Gingergold, Jonagold, Macoun, McIntosh, and just the last bit of Honeycrisp apples left on the trees. Apple picking is popular across the country, so plan to go in mid- to late September if you can. Some farms still have apples through October, so it may not be too late to either pick your own or catch your local farmer’s market for their bounty.

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Entering Russell Orchards
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Entering Russell Orchards
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Entering Russell Orchards

After picking ten pounds of apples, it was time to bake!

My Dad always made homemade apple sauce for us in the fall. It’s such a versatile dish, something you can have straight up for breakfast, warm up and ladle over vanilla ice cream, or have on the side with roasted pork tenderloin. The flavors are sweet, spicy, and altogether heartwarming!

Homemade Applesauce

  • 5 lbs. apples (I used a variety from the apples I picked, but I recommend Cortland or McIntosh)
  • 1/2 cup craisens or dried fruit
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1/2 cup orange juice (you can be creative and do 1/4 cup orange juice, and 1/4 cup of your favorite liquor – I used Pimms, my Dad uses rum sometimes)
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Core the apples and cut them into wedges. You can peel the apples if you wish or leave the skin on. Spread the apples out onto your baking dish and add the craisens and/or dried fruit.

3. Warm up the apple cider, brown sugar, orange juice (and liquor if you choose) in a pot, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.

4. Add the lemon juice, nutmeg, and cinnamon to the pot and stir until mixed in thoroughly.

5. Pour the liquid over the apples in your baking dish.

6. Cook the apples for 45 minutes. Make sure the apples have some liquid on them so they don’t dry out too much.

Tummy-warming applesuce
Tummy-warming applesauce

The potential for apple baking is endless. While apple pies, bars, and crisps are amazing, sometimes all you need is some simple applesauce to make your day better.

The Best Fruit Salad I Ever Made

I attended dinner party recently to say goodbye to another dear friend of mine moving away. Charged with bringing a sweet treat, I wanted to make something healthy, refreshing, and incredibly delicious. I don’t know why, but for some reason the most random song came to my head – a song from that children’s show The Wiggles my little sister always used to watch and sing around the kitchen. The song repeats the phrase “fruit salad, yummy, yummy” over and over again. Fruit salad. Yes! Perfect choice.

Fruit salad is truly an all-purpose dish. You can have it with breakfast, lunch, dinner (better yet “brinner”), or dessert (especially over vanilla ice cream). While you can make fruit salad by simply chopping and combining your favorite fruits, adding flavors brings a little more “oomph” to it. Fruits like apples and bananas also brown easily when exposed for a period of time. Do you want to serve your guests brown fruit? Do you want to eat brown fruit? I didn’t think so.

My solution? Add honey, cinnamon, lemon juice, and lemon zest. That’s it! This fruit salad tastes like I’m eating freshly made pie filling, but without the inches-on-the-hips adding crust.

Best Fruit Salad
The Best Fruit Salad I Ever Made

 

Best Fruit Salad

Yield: 4 servings

  • 1 banana, sliced
  • 1 cup cubed watermelon
  • 1 apple, chopped (the photo below has two, I chopped one and saw I had enough)
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup strawberries, cut into quarters
  • 1/3 cup honey (any kind of honey works – I used clover honey)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon (if you like more, go for it!)
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon (I used just a little less than this)
  • lemon zest, to taste

1. Wash your fruit (the apples, blueberries, and strawberries in this case).

Let's get chopping!
Let’s get chopping!

2. Slice your banana, watermelon, apple, and strawberries. Keep those blueberries whole.

3. Transfer your sliced fruit to a large bowl.

4. Put 1/4 cup of honey into a glass or microwave safe bowl. Warm up the honey for 30 seconds in the microwave so it becomes more liquid.

5. Add the liquified honey to your fruit. Then, add your cinnamon, lemon juice, and lemon zest.

6. Stir all the goodness around in your large bowl. Done!

Note: If you let this fruit salad sit in your fridge for a few hours, the sugar from the honey will bring out the juices in the fruit (this is called maceration). The flavors will mesh even further, and it will taste even more like pie filling. Yum!