Beyond the Cone: 10 Fun Ways to Eat Ice Cream

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iStock

On average, Americans consume more than 23 pounds of ice cream every year. Who says you have to eat it in a cone, or even in a bowl? In honor of National Ice Cream Month, which kicks off July 1, here are a few unconventional ways to hit your ice cream quota.

1. ICE CREAM TACOS

These dessert tacos are as tasty as they are easy to make. First, sauté tortillas in butter; next, dredge them in a cinnamon-sugar mixture. Fold the tortillas in half and dip the top edges in melted chocolate; allow the chocolate to harden, then pack the taco with your favorite ice cream flavor, top with caramel, and pop in the freezer for 30 minutes. Finally, eat them!

2. ICE CREAM PIE

This pie has a graham cracker crust and combines vanilla ice cream with peanut butter cups, pecans, Butterfingers, and homemade caramel sauce for a truly delicious dessert. If you just can’t wait for three hours, or want a quick ice cream pie you can make with kids, click here for a simpler, 10-minute recipe.

3. ICE CREAM BOMB

There are a lot of steps in this take on Baked Alaska—which, as legend has it, was invented at Delmonico’s in New York City in 1867 in celebration of the U.S.’s purchase of Alaska—but it’s still relatively easy to make. First, prepare a cocoa-coconut base; then, smush a bunch of ice cream into a bowl, evening out the top (which will become the bottom of your dessert) by placing cling wrap over the ice cream and smoothing it with your hand; then it goes into the freezer for a bit. Once it’s frozen hard enough, take it out of the freezer, dunk the bowl into another bowl of warm water, and gently pry the ice cream loose. Place the flat bottom on the coconut base, cover the whole thing in plastic wrap, and freeze again. Next, make a cocoa meringue and smooth it over the ice cream with a spatula. Bake at 356°F for four to five minutes and serve immediately.

4. ICE CREAM CUPCAKES

Ice cream + cupcakes = yum! Creating these tasty treats is simple. The first step: The day before you’re planning to serve, bake some cupcakes—whichever flavor you prefer. Next, scoop out the center; cut off the top of what you’ve scooped and set it aside. (Feel free to eat what’s left over!) Then, fill the hole in with ice cream and pop that piece of cupcake on top. Stick the cupcakes in the freezer overnight. When you’re just about ready to serve, pull them and out and top them with frosting or a dollop of whipped cream.

5. FRIED ICE CREAM

Fried ice cream: It’s not just for county fairs anymore! Start by placing nine scoops of ice cream on a baking sheet and popping them in the freezer for an hour. Next, roll them in a mixture of cornflake crumbs and cinnamon, then put them in a plastic bag and freeze overnight. When you’re ready to fry, heat the oil to 375°F; fry the balls one at a time for eight to 10 seconds. Serve in chilled bowls immediately.

6. ICE CREAM “HOT DOG”

If you have leftover hot dog buns, don’t toss ‘em—drench them in butter, cinnamon, and sugar, throw them on the grill, and then fill them with ice cream! This recipe from Food & Wine will show you how.

7. COOKIE DOUGH ICE CREAM SANDWICHES

Everyone’s had a chipwich. This recipe flips the script on the chipwich by sandwiching cookie dough ice cream between uncooked cookie dough. You can either make the ice cream yourself or go pre-made; either way, the results will be delicious.

8. ICE CREAM TRUFFLES

To create these delicious treats, you’ll first need to line a baking sheet with wax paper and scoop out eight round balls of ice cream in three flavors (this recipe recommends vanilla, chocolate, and coffee, but you can choose whatever your palette wants). Freeze the ice cream overnight. The next day, put your desired toppings—chopped almonds and coconut, for example—in separate bowls and line plates with wax paper. Next, melt some bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate in vegetable oil, stirring constantly. Once it’s totally melted, remove it from heat and let cool until it’s lukewarm. Quickly dip the ice cream balls in the chocolate and then into the bowls with toppings. Once all of the ice cream balls are fully coated, freeze them again until they’re firm, which should take a few hours (you can also freeze them for up to three days). Enjoy!

9. ICE CREAM POPS

Fun for kids and adults alike, this recipe calls for combining crushed cookies, peanut butter cups, and candy-coated chocolates in a bowl, then popping a spoonful into 5-ounce paper cups. Next, put vanilla ice cream and the remaining cookie/PB cup/candy mixture in a mixer bowl and combine with a paddle attachment. Spoon the mixture into the cups and insert a popsicle stick. Freeze until the pops are firm, then rip the cups off and serve!

10. MOCHI ICE CREAM

Finally, if making ice cream isn’t your thing, pick up My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream at the store. This delicious, creamy ice cream is wrapped in sweet rice dough and comes in seven flavors: Double Chocolate, Green Tea, Cookies and Cream, Ripe Strawberry, Sweet Mango, Mint Chocolate Chip, and Vanilla Bean. Find a store here.

The $13,000 Epiphany That Made Orville Redenbacher a National Popcorn King

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iStock.com/NoDerog

Happy National Popcorn Day! While you’re no doubt celebrating with a bowl of freshly popped, liberally buttered popcorn, here’s something else to digest: Orville Redenbacher originally called his product Red-Bow.

In 1951, Redenbacher and his partner, a fellow Purdue grad named Charlie Bowman, purchased the George F. Chester and Son seed corn plant in Boone Township, Indiana. Though Redenbacher’s background was in agronomy and plant genetics, he had dabbled in popcorn, and was friendly with the Chester family.

Eventually, Carl Hartman was brought in to experiment. In 1969, when the trio had developed a seed they felt really confident in, they went to market. They dubbed the product “Red-Bow,” a nod to “Redenbacher” and “Bowman.”

The product was a hit regionally, but by 1970, Bowman and Redenbacher were ready for a national audience and hired a Chicago advertising agency to advise them on branding strategy. At their first meeting, Redenbacher talked about popcorn for three hours. “Come back next week and we’ll have something for you,” he was told afterward.

The following week, he turned to the agency and was told that “Orville Redenbacher’s” was the perfect name for the fledgling popcorn brand. “Golly, no,” he said. “Redenbacher is such a ... funny name.” That was the point, they told him, and they must have made a convincing case for it, because Orville Redenbacher is the brand we know today—and the man himself is still a well-known spokesman more than 20 years after his death.

Still, Redenbacher wasn’t sure that the $13,000 fee the agency had charged was money well spent. “I drove back to Indiana wryly thinking we had paid $13,000 for someone to come up with the same name my mother had come up with when I was born,” Redenbacher later wrote.

Hungry for more Redenbacher? Take a look at the inventor at work in the vintage commercial below.

11 Secrets of Restaurant Servers

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iStock.com/andresr

If you enjoy eating at restaurants, it's worth getting to know the waitstaff. Servers are the face of the establishments where they work, and often the last people to handle your food before it reaches your table.

"People think it’s an easy job, and it’s really not," Alexis, a server who’s worked in the business for 30 years, tells Mental Floss. She says, jokingly, "You want a professional handling your food, because we have your life in our hands."

Even if they don't spit on your plate (which thankfully they almost never will), a waiter can shape your dining experience. We spoke with some seasoned professionals about how they deal with rude customers, what they wish more customers would do, and other secrets of the job.

1. Server pay varies greatly.

The minimum wage changes from state to state, but for tipped workers like servers, the difference in pay can be even more drastic depending on where you work. In over a dozen states, if a worker typically makes a certain amount per month in tips (often $20-$30), their employers are only required to pay them a minimum of $2.13 an hour. That’s how much Jeff, a video producer who’s held various jobs in the restaurant industry, made when serving tables in New Jersey. “Usually, if I had a full paycheck of serving I could just put a little bit of gas into the tank,” he tells Mental Floss.

Waiters and waitresses in many states rely almost entirely on tips to make a living—but that’s not the case everywhere. California, Oregon, and Washington each pay tipped employees minimum hourly wages over $10. Jon, who currently works at a casual fine dining restaurant in Portland, Oregon, gets $12 an hour from his employer. Including tips, he typically earns $230 a day before taxes, and brings home about $34,000 a year on a 25-hour work week.

2. They split up tips among the restaurant staff.

Here’s another reason to be generous with your tips: Whatever extra money you leave on the table may be going to more than one person. If you ordered a drink from the bar, or if there was anyone other than your server bringing your food and clearing it from the table, that tip will likely be split up. At one restaurant job, Jeff says he paid food expeditors (workers who run food from the kitchen to tables) 10 percent of whatever tips he earned.

3. Waiters and waitresses know how to handle rude customers.

In addition to taking orders and serving food, servers are often forced to de-escalate conflicts. For many people waiting tables, this means acting sweet and professional no matter how angry customers get. Jon’s strategy is to “treat them like a child, smile, tell them everything they want to hear and remind yourself that it’ll be over soon.” Similarly, Mike (not his real name), a server at a farm-to-table restaurant in Texas, likes to “kill them with kindness." He tells Mental Floss he tries to “be the bigger man and [not] return sour attitudes back to people who don’t treat me with respect. If nothing else I can hold my head high knowing I did my job to the best of my ability and didn’t let their negativity affect my day with other, more pleasant patrons.”

Alexis, who currently waits tables at a family-owned restaurant in California, goes beyond faking a smile and makes a point to practice empathy when serving rude guests. “There’s a hospital near my restaurant, and people come there for comfort food with hospital visitor stickers on their clothes all the time. And I know then that they’re going through something traumatic usually. So when people are acting badly, I put imaginary hospital stickers on their clothes and try to remove my ego.”

4. Your waiter (probably) won’t spit in your food.

While most servers have had to deal with a customer who treats them poorly, they rarely retaliate. On the old urban legend of servers spitting in their customer’s food, Alexis says, “Never seen anybody mess with anybody’s food out of spite or malicious intent. I’ve never seen it happen and I’ve never actually done it. I don’t need to get back at people like that.”

5. Servers do more than wait tables.

Most customers just see one aspect of a server's jobs. When they’re not refilling your drinks and bringing you condiments, they're doing side work—either before the restaurant opens, after the last guest leaves, or in between waiting tables. “It could be rolling silverware, filling sauces, cutting lemons, rotating salad bars, stuff like that,” Jeff says. “It’s not just serving and you leave; there’s usually something else behind the scenes that the server has to do.”

Alexis says that in addition to hosting and serving, she has to prep to-go orders, bus tables, and wash dishes. "We’re expected to be working every moment,” she says.

6. Waiters have some wild stories.

Though parts of the job are tedious, servers are bound to see interesting things. Alexis recalls a husband and wife who were regulars at the restaurant where she worked in the 1990s; the man was later arrested for murder. “I found out when a newspaper reporter started asking me questions about them,” she says. “I’m quoted on the front page of the LA Times as saying ‘A waitress in a local coffee shop said they were a nightmare!’”

Other stories are lighter. “When I worked at Red Robin there was a lady that came in every morning and would ask to sit in the same booth," Jon says. "She carried a bag [of] stuffed animals (mostly dragons) and situated them around the booth, always in the same spots, she’d talk to them throughout her dining experience.”

7. Waiters hate it when you don't know what you want.

The simplest way to get on your server’s good side is to know exactly what you want when you tell them you're ready to order. That means not wasting their time stalling as you speed-read the menu. If you haven't decided on a dish, let your server know and trust that they'll return to your table in a few minutes. “Don’t tell your server you’re ready to order if you’re not ready to order,” Alexis says. “I’m like ‘Come on, I know you’re not ready. I’m going someplace else and I’ll be back.’”

It also means not asking your server to make several trips to your table in the span of a few minutes. Mike says that customers asking for items one at a time is one of his biggest pet peeves. “[Customers will say] ‘I need salt. I need hot sauce. I need another [...] drink.’ I was away from the table for 30 seconds each time. Those requests could easily be fulfilled in one trip to the kitchen.”

8. Waiters hate when you ask to move tables.

Next time you get seated in a restaurant, think twice before asking your server to switch tables. Restaurants divide their floor plan into sections, and each server is responsible for a different group of tables. The hosts in charge of seating rotate these sections to distribute guests evenly to servers; by asking to move, you may be depriving one server of an hour’s worth of tips while creating extra work for a server who’s already swamped. According Jon, the worst time to complain about where you were seated is when a restaurant is busy: “Sometimes this isn’t a problem if we’re slow, but if it’s a Friday/Saturday chances are you were put there for a reason.”

9. Servers work when everyone else gets the day off.

Servers have to be prepared to work a different schedule every week, work late into the night, and work on weekends. This can make maintaining a normal social life challenging. “My schedule can be troublesome, my girlfriend/friends have the opposite schedule as me so I’m never able to make it out on weekends or holidays,” Jon says.

And on the days many 9-to-5 workers go out to celebrate, servers have to wait on them. “Where I currently work I have worked Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Years Eve, New Years Day, and I will have to work on Mardi Gras (in the South),” Mike says. “I was leaving for work as my family arrived at my house for Christmas. I missed a New Years party in my house. If I hadn’t requested if off as soon as I began working there I’m almost certain I’d have to work 15 [hours] on my birthday.”

10. Your server might give you a free drink if you order it at the right time.

Asking your server for a free stuff likely won’t get you anywhere, but there is one thing you can do to possibly have a drink taken off your bill. If you wait until after your meal is served to order something cheap like a soft drink, Alexis says there’s a chance you won’t get charged for it all. “Not alcoholic drinks, but I’m talking about a cup of coffee or a soda or something like that, especially if you’re already paying for other beverages,” she says. “The server might get too busy or might not be inclined to go back to the POS [point of sale] system and add them on to your bill. It’s more trouble than it’s worth sometimes.”

11. Waiters want you to learn their names.

There’s a reason most servers introduce themselves before taking your order: They’d much rather you use their real names than a demeaning nickname. “Don’t call me sweetheart! I’m wearing a damn name tag,” Alexis says. “Sometimes I respond well, and other times no.”

And if your server doesn’t introduce themselves and isn’t wearing a name tag, Jon says it doesn’t hurt to ask. “Ask what the servers name is and refer them by name when you’re talking to them.” He says it’s “refreshing when a guest does this.”

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