Monday, July 16, 2012

National Ice Cream Month with Blue Bell, a Brandy Alexander and a Dreamsicle



We Texas natives are just a bunch of braggarts and we know it.  We have definitely come by that name honestly because we do brag a lot, but let’s face it we have a lot to brag about.  We brew great beer; have beautiful highways, rich history, good music and some delicious food. 

When we moved to Colorado almost 10 years ago we came to the conclusion that we were just going to have to adapt our tastes to the local color and bloom where we were planted.  I am so happy to say that along the way we have managed to find some pretty good Tex-Mex and some outstanding beer around here too. By the same token we figured that there were some things that we would just have to enjoy during our visits home like great barbeque and my beloved Blue Bell Ice Cream.  Then a miracle happened. 

A year ago March 14th my daughter breathlessly called me to tell me she had either had a hallucination in King Soopers or they were now carrying Blue Bell ice cream.  I remembered that my husband had said he had seen a Blue Bell truck one day, but we laughed it off thinking that the poor driver must have taken a wrong turn in Dallas and landed up here.

Wanting to see it for myself, I put on my shoes and headed down to our local store.  Sure enough, there it was in all its glory, rows upon rows of brightly colored round gold and brown rimmed containers teasing me with their country chic names like Peaches and Cream, Banana Split and Homemade Vanilla.  Be still my foolish heart.

With trembling hands I reached for one of my favorites, Pistachio Almond and placed it in my shopping cart.  I pulled away from the ice cream section carefully zigzagging my way through the other people (obviously Texans by looks of their glazed over eyes and gaping mouths) that had gathered around the foggy glass doors in front of the Blue Bell display.  Thinking better of leaving with just one flavor, I turned around  and picked up a half gallon of Natural Vanilla Bean just in case Blue Bell changed their minds and took their ice cream and headed back to Texas.  Well, it’s been over a year now and I am happy to say that you can find Blue Bell in most every grocery store in the Denver metro area. 

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Blue Bell, the company began in 1907 in the town of Brenham, Texas.  Originally, the company started out churning butter using cream that was collected from local farmers.  On occasion when there was leftover cream the butter maker would set about the task of making ice cream in a hand crank freezer which was then sold to a few lucky families close to the creamery.  This new product soon became popular and in 1911 the company began producing it regularly on a larger scale, and the rest as they say is history.

You can now find Blue Bell ice cream in 18 states.  They are the number three blended ice cream manufacturer in America.  They proudly make all of their own mixings that go into their ice cream.  They also source all of their fruits locally so they are used at their peak of freshness.  After all these years they are still family owned, employing 3,000 people nationwide and 70 of those are here in Colorado.

 A couple of weeks ago I went with Barb of Creative Culinary and Lea Ann from Cooking on the Ranch to the Blue Bell distribution center in our area for an ice cream tasting and a tour of their facility (to see their take on this day and their recipes, please click on their links above).  I know, I know, tough job but someone has to do it.   Branch Manager, Kevin McDevitt treated us to several of their ice cream and novelty flavors.  Some were old favorites of mine and some were new ones like Red Velvet Cake, Blackberry Cobbler and the most surprising of all their Sour Apple novelty bars that really had me wanting to take the whole box home.

My daughter's personal favorite flavor




The banana pops are a surprising 50 calories
Ice cream should be tempered before eating.  To achieve optimum flavor, leave your ice cream at room temperature for a few minutes to soften a bit before scooping it up.

I feel safe to say that Blue Bell's storage facility is the coldest place in Colorado in the summer.
  

Blue Bell ice cream is stored and transported upside down so that the ice cream inside can be clearly seen through the window on the lid.


Blue Bell's motto "We eat all we can and sell the rest" is obviously something that they aren't joking about by the looks of their breakroom.  I wonder if they have any job openings.

Since July is national ice cream month we thought that this would be the perfect time to experiment with some of the ice cream that Blue Bell was kind enough to send us home with.  It has been really hard deciding what ice cream to use.  I considered a Grasshopper Pie made from their creamy mint chocolate chip.  I also thought about making ice cream bon bons with their newest flavor,  Summer Strawberry Pie, but kept coming back to two of my favorite after dinner ice cream drinks, Brandy Alexander and the always tempting Dreamsicle.

Since both of these drinks are cold and rich they are the perfect super simple summer barbeque dessert.  With just a very few ingredients and five minutes with a blender you will have a new way to treat your diners to an after dinner sweet treat.


Creamsicle

Many people use vodka and triple sec in their recipes but I find them a bit too alcoholic for my taste.  I think this concoction is just right.


3 large scoops Blue Bell Natural Vanilla Bean ice cream

4 ounces orange juice

1-1/2 ounces Amaretto

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a blender and blend for 10 seconds until smooth and creamy.  Serve in a wine glass with an orange twist and a straw.

Makes 2


Brandy Alexander

Bartenders and purists will notice that this is not the original recipe for the classic drink originally just known as an Alexander which consists of gin, cream de cacao and cream.  Personally I think this version is much better.

2 large scoops Blue Bell Natural Vanilla Bean ice cream

1 – 1/2 ounces brandy

1 ounce dark crème de cacao

1 tablespoon chocolate syrup

Grated chocolate or a sprinkling of nutmeg to garnish

Place the ice cream, brandy, crème de cacao and chocolate syrup in the bowl of a blender and blend for 10 seconds until smooth and creamy.  Pour into martini glasses, garnish and serve.

Makes 2   

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