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Preview: Always Order Dessert

Always Order Dessert



Recipes for delicious living, by Alejandra Ramos



Updated: 2018-02-20T17:22:51.972-05:00

 



Pink Prosecco Cake with Chocolate Truffle Frosting

2018-02-05T19:51:40.570-05:00

I celebrated my 35th birthday this past weekend with this sparkly gold & pink dream of cake. It's a classic moist vanilla cake made with prosecco and Chambord raspberry liqueur baked into the batter.I love that the bright pink color makes it fun and youthful, while the addition of a little booze makes it totally grown up.The frosting is my go-to chocolate frosting, which is essentially just a spreadable dark chocolate ganache that pairs well with the sweet cake.A thin layer of raspberry jam brings out the flavor.  I kept the decor simple, but elegant, using these adorable edible gold stars that I bought at Michael's.It's been a few years since I've baked myself a proper birthday cake, and I'm thinking I need to make this a yearly tradition.What's your favorite kind of birthday cake? Pink Prosecco Cake with Chocolate Truffle FrostingMakes one 10" round cakeIngredientsFor the cake3 cups cake flour (or 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour + 1/4 cup corn starch)2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract1/4 teaspoon red food coloring1/2 cup whole milk1/2 cup sparkling rose or prosecco 1/4 cup Chambord raspberry liqueur (or substitute more prosecco)1/2 cup seedless raspberry jamFor the frosting1 1/2 cups heavy cream2 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips1/2 teaspoon kosher saltDirectionsPreheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line two 10” round cake pans with parchment paper.Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.In the base of an electric mixer, beat softened butter and sugar for at least 5 minutes or until light, fluffy, and multiplied several times in volume. (Don’t skip this step!)Add the eggs, one at a time, waiting until each one is beat in completely before adding the next.Stir in the vanilla, food coloring, milk, prosecco, and Chambord.Stir in the flour mixture by hand, just until completely combined with no dried spots. Divide into two pans.Bake 30-35 minutes, or until fully baked, golden and slightly pulling away from the sides. Let cool in pan 10 minutes before flipping out onto a rack to cool completely.Make the frosting while the cake bakes: Heat heavy cream in a medium, heavy-bottom saucepan just until bubbles start to form. Remove from heat and add the chocolate chips and salt. Whisk continuously until melted and smooth. Let cool to room temperature. To assemble cake. Place one layer on a serving dish. Spread with raspberry jam followed by a generous spoonful of the chocolate frosting. Spread to the edges then place in refrigerator to chill and harden. Once set, add the second cake layer and finish frosting the sides and top of the cake.  Decorate as desired. [...]



The Clothes that Got Away

2018-01-28T14:12:52.155-05:00

I still think about a black cropped jumpsuit I tried on early last year. I was at a Macy's in Los Angeles looking for an outfit to wear for a TV shoot I had scheduled the next day, when I spotted this on the rack and decided to try it on, too. It was definitely not something I could wear for the TV thing, but it caught my eye and I figured it couldn't hurt to see what it would look like on me.Except that it did hurt because it fit perfectly, and yet I could not buy it.I mean, I could technically have bought it, but it was about $200, which is too much for just a casual impulse purchase. And it wasn't right for the event, or even the season. (I was in LA where it would have been fine, but would have been useless in the blustery, snowy situation happening back home in NYC.)That didn't stop me from keeping that jumpsuit in my hands for at least two hours, bringing it back and forth from the sales floor to the dressing room with each new batch of appropriate outfits I found, trying it on a second, third, and possibly even fourth time.Then I left it. And I immediately regretted it.That night in my hotel room, I sat on my bed eating room service dinner and trying in vain to find the jumpsuit online. I even tried checking at the Macy's in Herald Square when I got back home, but they didn't have it.This wasn't the first time this happened. Over the years, I've regretted walking away from a few items. My most devastating memory is of a vintage Hermes bag I spotted at an estate sale in Washington, DC, during my senior year of college. It was unfortunately already in another woman's hand and she was haggling with the woman running the sale. She kept saying she wouldn't pay more than $65 for it and the other woman kept telling her it was Hermes, and I had been so tempted to jump in and say "I'll pay $165!" The customer wore the woman down and scored the Hermes bag for $65 while I watched, equal parts paralyzed and horrified at what I had just witnessed. I shared this jumpsuit picture on my Instagram story a few days ago, and got dozens of responses from friends and followers that have their own clothing regrets. One friend can't stop thinking about a pair of boots she tried on while traveling in Germany 20 years ago. Another regrets the red dress she returned to a TJMaxx rack because the checkout line was too long. (I missed out on a buttery-soft Marc Jacobs bag at a different TJ Maxx for the same reason; clearly I have a problem with pulling the trigger on designer purses.) I heard stories about leather jackets, thrift store t-shirts, black stilettos, and even one woman who said she will never get over having picked her second choice wedding dress because it was a little bit cheaper than the one she really wanted. Part of me wonders if the regret comes from imagining what could have been. In my mind, those purses and dresses and jumpsuits are perfect. I think about them when trying to find something to wear. I tell myself lies like, "if only I'd bought that jumpsuit, I could have worn that today..." ignoring the dozens of already wonderful items I already own. Items which themselves seemed perfect on the day I brought them home.I ignore the likely truth that perhaps in real life the bag would have been too heavy, the jumpsuit too thin, or the boots too tight. Those are the kinds of flaws that only reveal themselves once you've had a chance to live with the piece a bit. Absent that opportunity, they will forever exist in a perfect fantasy of what could have been. They'll forever remain the clothes that got away. [...]



3 Must-Try Recipes for 2018 (+1 to Avoid)

2018-01-24T18:07:32.899-05:00


I've never been much for major resolutions, but I do love setting small and frequent challenges for myself. I find that those little goals are not only more immediately attainable, but they often have a way of adding up and leading to much bigger accomplishments, one small step at a time. Even more importantly, it's often the act of trying one simple thing that can teach you lessons to help you in other aspects of your life.

With that in mind, I've put together a brief list of 3 easy recipes you should try to add to your culinary repertoire this year (plus one you should eliminate completely). Whether you're looking to entertain more, save money, or eat more quality meals at home, the following recipes will help you approach 2018 on the right foot.

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Basically a Brownie Cake

2018-01-24T13:12:59.509-05:00

This one-pot deep dark chocolate cake is my favorite kind of cake. Simple. Elegant. Easy and unfussy, yet somehow dramatic, memorable, craveable. The recipe is essentially a brownie recipe (hence the name), though the results are a little more delicate than a proper brownie. Think of it as the ultimate, fudgiest brownie that is better eaten with a fork than straight out of your hand.

I think of this one as a perfect dinner party cake because it hits my three dinner party dessert requirements:

1. It's best made a day or two in advance (though you can certainly eat it a few hours after baking, too!).

2. It's unfussy to make, but incredibly easy to dress up into an elegantly impressive celebration dessert. Dust the top with some powdered sugar and sprinkle of edible flowers. Or add a sweep of creme fraiche and a mountain of fresh berries. If you really want a showstopper, bake two then layer with whipped ganache frosting.

3. And finally, it is rich in flavor, but still light enough to not overwhelm after a big meal.

What more could you ask for? 
 

Basically a Brownie Cake
Serves 8

Ingredients
8oz unsalted butter (Get the best quality you can find, I like Kerrygold!)
8oz dark chocolate (Get the best quality you can find, at least 72% cocoa), chopped
1 1/3 cups granulated white sugar
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt + more for garnish
5 large eggs
1/4 cup all purpose flour

Freshly whipped cream or creme fraiche, for serving

Equipment: 9-inch springform pan, parchment paper, aluminum foil

Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9-inch round springform pan, then line the bottom with a round of parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper. Wrap the outside bottom of the pan with foil to prevent drips from any gaps in the springform base. (No need to wrap all the way up. It should look like this.)

Place a medium heavy-bottom saucepan over medium heat and add the butter and chocolate, stirring occasionally until melted. Reduce heat to low, add the sugar, then whisk until dissolved (about 1 minute). Remove from heat and stir in the espresso and salt. Let cool 15 minutes.

Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking each one in completely until fully incorporated. Add the flour and whisk until smooth.

Pour into prepared pan, sprinkle with a bit more flaky salt, and bake in middle rack for about 25 minutes, or until the center is fully set.

Remove from oven and let cool in pan 15 minutes before removing sides. Let cool completely, then gently remove from parchment lined bottom and transfer to a serving platter. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled with whipped cream or creme fraiche on the side.





My 12 Favorite Recipes of 2017

2017-12-31T14:57:02.927-05:00

I've had the opportunity to share dozens of recipes with you this past year, both on the blog and on various TV segments. As we wrap up 2017, I wanted to highlight a few of my favorite recipes from the past year. These are the ones I enjoyed making, eating, and cooking the most (including a few that appeared most often on my own table).

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Banoffee Pie Doughnuts (A Krispy Kreme Holiday Doughnut Hack)

2017-12-23T08:38:05.213-05:00

What's one dessert you absolutely must always order when you spot it on a menu? I have a few must-haves, but at the top of that short list is Banoffee Pie. A traditional British dessert of shortbread, caramel, fresh bananas, and whipped cream, it's a magical combination of flavors and textures, and seriously one of the coziest things one can ever enjoy after a winter meal.

I've baked Banoffee Pie from scratch in the past, but this year I partnered with Krispy Kreme to create an equally delicious and impressive version of it that can be enjoyed in minutes without ever turning on the oven.

Meet my Banoffee Pie Krispy Kreme Doughnuts!

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Bacon Fat Cake

2017-12-21T22:07:35.826-05:00

Baking this Bacon Fat Cake was one of the first things I did this year. Literally, on January 1st I baked a cake made with a lot of bacon fat, which felt like a golden, lush, gorgeously rich way to start a new year.

I'm not really sure why I've held off on posting the recipe for nearly an entire year, except that it happens sometimes (I have piles and piles of hoarded recipes!).

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11 Books That Make Really Great Gifts

2017-12-20T17:35:09.977-05:00


Books are one of my favorite things to give and receive, especially when I leave things to the last minute (which is pretty much always; thank God for overnight delivery!). These are a few books I've loved and have given as gifts over the past couple years.
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Mexican Hot Chocolate Muddy Buddies

2018-01-02T15:12:11.767-05:00


There's no need to reinvent the wheel every holiday season. Though magazines and food blogs (yes, mine included!) love to share new and creative recipes each year, the truth is that many of us just crave our classic favorites--especially during the holidays!

But that doesn't mean you have to serve the same thing over and over again. (I love to play in the kitchen way too much for that!)

My secret to holiday entertaining that is both easy and creative is to add just a few small personalized twists to the classics. It's a way of putting a little bit of your own love and creativity into a recipe, without spending hours testing and trying out new things.

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9 Tips for A Stress-Free Holiday Season

2018-01-02T15:12:24.751-05:00

This joyful season of family, friends, and entertaining is one of my favorite times of the year. There are so many incredible things going on, but that desire to do it all can also make this a stressful time for many of us. This year, I partnered with Walmart to share a few ideas to help make the next few weeks as relaxed and stress-free as possible.
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Pumpkin Spice Chex Mix + A DIY Chex Mix Bar!

2017-11-21T11:00:18.987-05:00

Do you know that last half hour or so just before a holiday party starts? That’s usually when I freak out a little bit.

It’s like time suddenly speeds up, nothing is ready, something always burns or spills or breaks (or burns AND spills AND breaks…eeek!). It’s also the moment when I start to worry that guests are going to show up early to find me in the midst of complete and total disaster.

Does this happen to you, too?

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Orange Cranberry Pecan Coffee Cake

2017-11-21T11:03:53.996-05:00

There's something about cranberries that instantly puts me in the festive spirit--does that happen for you, too? This season I've been working with Ocean Spray to share hosting tips and ideas to make your Thanksgiving go as smoothly as possible--especially for those of you hosting for the first time!

Earlier this week we talked about a few of my favorite hosting tips, and today I want to share a sweet recipe that will be one of your secret weapons when entertaining your Thanksgiving guests.  This one features Ocean Spray® Fresh Cranberries, which are my forever fave. I always make a point of buying a few extra bags each time I shop--some to use right away, and some to pop in the freezer to enjoy later! They're such a quick and easy way to add color, flavor, and a little holiday twist to all your favorite recipes.

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7 Tips for First-Time Thanksgiving Hosts

2017-11-20T12:43:11.432-05:00

Will this be your first year hosting Thanksgiving? (Or do you remember the first time you did?) I was in college the first time I hosted. My brother, who was in the Marines at the time, was unable to come home for the holiday so instead of celebrating without him at home, my parents came down to Washington, DC (where I went to school) for a low-key Thanksgiving in my tiny studio apartment.

I remember prepping for days and cooking WAY too much food for just three people.  (Seriously--I think I made a 22-pound turkey, which is way too much turkey.) It was all delicious, but I could definitely have used a bit more guidance to keep things streamlined and less stressful.

That's why I was excited to team up with Ocean Spray this year to help share hosting tips and advice for first-time Thanksgiving hosts (although these tips will work for everyone, too!).

The best advice usually comes from family, and Ocean Spray reached out to their family farmers to recruit a team of CranMas (AKA cranberry farmer grandmas!) to share their best tips for hosting Thanksgiving. Earlier this month I got to meet some of these amazing women at a Thanksgiving boot camp hosted in Rockefeller Center where we got advice about everything from decorating and planning to cooking, and even cocktails!

Below are a few of my favorite tips from these incredible ladies--as well as some ideas I've learned over the years. (You know...like how you really only need 1-2 pounds of turkey per person.)

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Orange, Garlic & Paprika Rubbed Boneless Pork Loin Roast

2017-10-21T12:22:13.364-04:00

I can barely believe it, but we’re starting to creep closer and closer to the Fall and Winter holiday season. Halloween and Dia de los Muertos decorations are popping up in stores, Thanksgiving recipes are appearing on magazine racks, and I even spotted a Christmas tree in my  hotel lobby in Edinburgh last week (gasp!). I’m not quite ready for the snow and Santa hats, but the thought of cozy Fall dinners shared in the company of family and friends is at least a bit tempting.

This recipe is part of my continuing partnership with Smithfield. As I mentioned this past summer, I’ll be sharing recipes highlighting Smithfield’s variety of great-quality fresh pork cuts. Last time, I shared a recipe for Carnitas-style Fajitas using fresh pork shoulder, but now we’re moving on to something a bit more cozy and perfect for parties—a pork loin roast!

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Pecan Dulce de Leche Banana Bread

2017-11-16T20:34:11.879-05:00

It felt brisk and chilly when I woke up this morning. While I admit that I have mixed feelings about this since summer is my one true love, there are a few things I appreciate about the new season.Chief among those is the fact that cooler days are wonderful for baking cozy and decadent desserts like this Pecan Dulce de Leche Banana Bread.A dense, moist banana bread topped with a shower of chopped pecans and plenty of dulce de leche caramel drizzled and swirled throughout seems like a nice way to start out this new season.The basic bread is just as simple as any other banana bread: you mash and stir, but then you get a little wild with the toppings.Chopped pecans--which I recommend actually chopping by hand for the best texture--form a gorgeous crust on the top of the bread. I prefer this to baking them into the batter because then you get that contrast of soft cake and crunchy nuts on top. And then there is the dulce de leche, which is the best part. You can make it homemade if you prefer, but I actually just used a jarred one I got at the grocery store (it's usually near the condensed milk and other baking supplies). The trick here is to layer it into the cake. You want some mixed into the batter, then some swirled in on top. Then a bit drizzled on with the pecans just before baking, and then...when it comes out of the oven?That's when you go wild.Drizzle it on all over. Let it drip and ooze down the sides. Get messy with it!(You can even add a bit more to each slice as you serve it.) This isn't an austere, breakfast-like banana bread. This is rich, gooey, decadent, go-to-town-and-enjoy-it kind of banana bread.(Which, does NOT mean that you can't have it for breakfast, mind you!)****Loved this recipe? Here are a few other banana bread recipes you might like:Vegan Chocolate Banana BreadBanana Bread CookiesClassic Banana Bread And let's connect so you can find out the next time I post! Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates. Thanks so much for reading!Pecan Dulce de Leche Banana Bread Makes 1 loaf (about 8 servings)Ingredients3 ripe bananas, peeled1/2 cup granulated sugar4 tablespoons butter, melted1 large egg1 1/2 cups dulce de leche (homemade or store-bought)2 teaspoons vanilla extract1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour1 teaspoon kosher salt + more for garnish1 teaspoon baking soda2 cups pecans, roughly choppedDirections Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease or line a 4x8” loaf pan and set aside.In a mixing bowl or the base of a mixer, beat together the bananas, sugar, melted butter, egg, vanilla, and 1/2 cup of the dulce de leche (don’t use all of it!). Add the flour, baking soda, an salt, and stir just until evenly combined. Pour into your prepared baking dish, and drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the remaining dulce de leche. Add the pecans and press in slightly with your hands, then drizzle on another 1/4 cup of dulce de leche (again…don’t use it all!)Bake about 1 hour, or until a tester inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from loaf pan and let cool completely. Drizzle with all the remaining dulce de leche just before serving.[...]



5 Reasons to Get Excited about Fall

2017-09-22T17:15:40.639-04:00

As much as I appreciate the beauty of changing seasons, the chance to start again, crunchy leaves, etc., etc., I'm still always a bit sad to say good-bye to the lush languor of summer.

While it's still sunny and 80 degrees in New York right now, things already feel different. Can you feel it?

That said, I'm thankful for things like crisp apples and mulberry-colored dresses, which at least give me something to look forward to.

 In an effort to get myself excited for Fall, I brainstormed a few of my favorite things about the new season. Check them out below (there's even a video!)

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My New TV Reel

2017-09-08T14:55:24.822-04:00

This reel of my TV work is SO overdue. I've been meaning to make a new one for about a year and a half, but kept putting it off...and off...and off. (I have many many friendly follow-up emails from my agent's assistant to prove it!)

Editing video is not my favorite thing (nor is it something I'm particularly good at), but hiring someone else to do it also stressed me out since I would still have to go through all my segments and pick out the clips I wanted, then pay someone to edit them together. I figured that once I'd gone through all the work of finding the right clips and song (basically 80% of the job), I might as well just keep going and finish the job myself.

So I did!

Anyway, here it is!

allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/XMSnlH_G9Pk" width="560">

My hosting and lifestyle expert reel featuring some of my favorite clips for the dozens and dozens of TV segments and other on-camera things I've done over the past couple years. My ultimate goal is a paid TV gig as a co-host or contributor or some other kind of fabulous TV project where I get to do this sort of thing every day!

I love being on camera and sharing ideas and stories that both entertain and inspire. I love interacting with people, laughing, dancing, and riding with the unexpected waves of TV production (it's the mistakes and surprises that are always my favorite!) and look forward to the moment when I get to do it all the time.

Thanks so much for your support over the years. I had no idea when I hit publish on that first post all those years ago, that it would lead to me laughing it up on national TV with legends like Al Roker and Harry Connick Jr., but man oh man am I ever thankful that it has!

Can't wait to see what happens next.

xoxo




Cinnamon Blueberry Pecan Coffee Cake

2017-09-08T13:33:01.595-04:00

I bake a lot of cakes, but this Cinnamon Blueberry Pecan Coffee Cake is one of the best things I've ever made. It's ridiculously simple, but there's something about the combination of the fresh summery blueberries, nutty pecans, and warm cinnamon that makes it particularly satisfying during these in-between weeks. It's not quite Fall yet, but you can feel summer drifting away. There are still some crazy hot days ahead, but the attitude has changed.

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Spicy Green Juice (Green Bloody Mary Mix)

2017-09-01T16:01:18.956-04:00

My number one issue with most green juice recipes is that they are always too sweet. Most classic green juice recipes call for the addition of apples or pears, which makes the drink much sweeter than anything I'd ever want to drink for breakfast (or really at any time of day!).

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Veggie Stove-top Frittata with Sweet Corn, Tomatoes & Zucchini

2017-09-01T16:01:41.623-04:00

There are only a few weeks left of summer, but as the days start to cool and the tans start to fade, we can at least enjoy the lush late-summer produce that's filling the market stalls.

Sweet corn, juicy tomatoes, those oversized zucchini and squash--all ripe, sweet, and bursting with flavor.

This veggie frittata brings all of them together (along with a bit of salty cheese, of course!) for a simple stove-top meal that works at any time of day. I shared this recipe on the TODAY Show this week (along with this spicy green juice that doubles as a fab Bloody Mary alternative!).
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Grilled Apricots with Almond Mascarpone

2017-08-23T20:52:15.668-04:00

Late-summer is one of the lushest times of the year. Juicy, ripe stone fruit like apricots are at their peak, and while perfect fresh and eaten right out of hand, they're also really wonderful served grilled.

Grilling apricots takes just a few minutes, but makes that already delicious fruit even sweeter and better by caramelizing the natural sugars and adding just a hint of smokiness to every bite.

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Curvy Style: A Flattering Flowy Dress for Hot Summer Days

2018-01-28T14:14:05.093-05:00

I love a bright dress.

For some reason, there's an idea that New Yorkers are all about black, but that's never been true for me. My closet is a rainbow of bright, bold shades. It's ideal since I work on camera (bright colors are always best on TV), but it's also how I want to dress when I'm not working.

I spotted this flowy mustard yellow off-the-shoulder dress on the sale rack at Anthropologie a few weeks ago, but ended up not buying it.

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Pork Carnitas-Style Fajitas

2017-10-26T10:32:44.270-04:00

Today I’m giving you two very easy pork recipes in one—carnitas that you can enjoy as-is out of the oven, and then turn into delicious carnitas-style fajitas for a show-stopping second-day meal!
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Easy Marinated Roast Chicken Breasts

2018-01-17T09:20:32.069-05:00

Every time I make this easy marinated roast chicken breast recipe I think that it's the sort of thing I should do at least once a week (and then I forget to do so until the next time...lather, rinse, repeat).

It really is the easiest thing, and so very flavorful. A perfect weeknight recipe!
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6 Amazing Ice Cream Sandwich Ideas You Have to Try

2017-10-26T10:31:04.979-04:00

Ice cream sandwiches have come a long way from those plain chocolate cookie and vanilla ice cream treats so many of us enjoyed as kids. Simple cookies have been replaced with everything from salty crackers to baked goods to fresh fruit.

And the ice cream options? Even more incredible!

I'm so excited to have teamed up with Walmart this month to put together this epic ice cream sandwich guide for you featuring six fun ice cream sandwich ideas. From kinda fancy dinner party-ready treats to ones the kids will love, there is something here for everyone.

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