By Kathryn McLean

It’s June and summer is almost here. I’m welcoming the longer, warmer days, glad that many flowers and trees are blooming, and so excited that my early-planted seeds are now plants in the ground. The chirping birds sometimes wake me early.

The weather is warm and sunny and that calls for ice cream: scoops on cones, ice cream sandwiches from the supermarket, and custom sundaes from ice cream shops.

But you can turn store-bought items into special treats with just a few minutes’ work, upgrading an ordinary ice cream into a special surprise. Chocolate-and-sprinkle dipped cones and candy-edged ice cream sandwiches are two examples.

Whether it’s a special occasion like an at-home birthday celebration or Father’s Day, sprinkles and small candies will take your ice cream sandwich up a notch. Kids and adults alike enjoy a sprinkle cone, especially if it’s a surprise. In fact, kids can make the fancied-up sandwiches themselves.

To make candy-dipped ice cream sandwiches, someone in the family who is allowed to use a knife will simply cut the sandwiches in half. Then (any age helper) can dip the cut side of the ice cream into a shallow dish filled with sprinkles or small candy-coated chocolates. Return to the freezer if not serving right away.

To spruce up an ice cream cone with sprinkles, there are only two steps to making them. First, melt ¼ cup of chocolate chips in a small pot over low heat, stirring to help the chocolate melt evenly. Second, dip the top (open end) of the cone into the melted chocolate and then into assorted sprinkles, or small hard candies such as nerds. Carefully stand the dipped cones (with the pointed end of the cone up) on parchment or waxed paper until the chocolate has set.

Let the chocolate harden for at least an hour. Once the chocolate and candies have set, go ahead and scoop the ice cream into the cones. Store any extra dipped cones in plastic. Dipped cones can be made with regular or sugar cones, and don’t forget those minis.

I think that having sprinkles on a chocolate-dipped cone is pretty nice, but the beauty to making these treats at home is that you can customize the pieces and flavours of ice cream as well.

Maybe coat the chocolate-dipped cone in crushed peanuts, then scoop some peanut butter ice cream on top. How about strawberry nerds and chocolate ice cream? Consider the many varieties of sprinkles available and choose a favourite colour for the edges of your ice cream sandwich surprise.

It might not quite be summer yet, but it’s not too early to start eating ice cream as if it were.