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Minted strawberries bring a fresh new surprise twist to this fudge brownie sundae. Photo by Sue Doeden

Sweet little girl turns into an ice cream bully

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I come from a long line of ice cream lovers. A highlight of each trip to Chicago to visit my grandma was the moment she would say, "Let's take a ride." I knew that meant that we'd pile into my dad's car and we would drive right to my grandma's favorite ice cream parlor.

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When we weren't visiting my grandma, my dad made sure that I had an occasional fix of ice cream. We made frequent trips to the local Bridgeman's ice cream parlor. I got hooked on the combination of chocolate and mint on one of our dad-daughter visits. I'd have a sundae made of mint chocolate chip ice cream smothered with hot fudge sauce, all topped with a huge squirt of whipped cream. My dad's choice was always the big banana split. And, during the summer months, I was the one who would hear the tinkling music of the ice cream man's truck long before anyone else. And I would always be the first in line when he finally drove down our block. I wasn't the neighborhood bully, but it's amazing what happens to a sweet little girl when she needs some ice cream.

Maybe it's those fond memories that have kept my love of ice cream alive.

July was designated National Ice Cream Month back in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan, a self-proclaimed dessert fan. I certainly don't need an excuse to eat more ice cream. But since it is the month to celebrate the creamy goodness of this frozen treat, I've developed a new sundae that brings together my favorite flavors, chocolate and mint, along with the fresh strawberries of summer.

I've been making these Fudge Brownies for years. The batter makes a huge pan of fudgy brownies, making them perfect to take to a potluck picnic, with or without your favorite frosting.

The soft, chewy texture of the fudge brownies makes them a perfect nest for a large scoop of premium ice cream and hot fudge sauce.

Minted strawberries bring a fresh new surprise twist to this sundae. Fresh mint leaves are steeped in hot syrup made of water and sugar. Once the syrup cools, it can be poured over fresh strawberries. The berries bathe in the mint-infused syrup, soaking up just a hint of the fresh bright taste of mint.

Only the strawberries are used for the sundae, leaving the flavorful syrup behind. Don't pour it down the drain, though. It's delicious stirred into a glass of iced tea or sparkling water, adding a bit of sweetness and a hint of mint.

Fudge Brownie Sundae with Minted Strawberries is a refreshing All-American dessert with attitude - brownies, ice cream, hot fudge and kicked-up strawberries. It's a perfect way to celebrate National Ice Cream Month.

For me, every month is the right month for eating ice cream. So, don't be annoyed with me when I give you the elbow as I inch my way to the front of the ice cream line. It's amazing what can happen to an adult woman when she needs some ice cream.

Fudge Brownie Sundae with Minted Strawberries

1 cup water

½ cup sugar

1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled, quartered

12 fresh mint leaves

3 cups sugar

1½ cups (3 sticks) butter, room temperature

6 large eggs, beaten

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

2¼ cups all-purpose flour

¾ teaspoon salt

¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1½ cups chopped nuts

Hot fudge sauce (your favorite)

Whipped cream for serving

Prepare the minted strawberries by mixing water and ½ cup sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. As soon as the liquid comes to a boil, add the mint leaves. Cook for 1 minute. Immediately remove from heat, cover and steep for 10 minutes. Strain the mint leaves from the liquid. Allow the liquid to cool a bit, then cover and refrigerate. This mint-infused syrup will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Pour cold syrup over prepared strawberries. Cover. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

To prepare fudge brownies, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10- x 15-inch baking pan with sides. Line the buttered baking pan with parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper.

Cream butter until fluffy. Add 3 cups sugar, 1 cup at a time, and beat until light. Add eggs and vanilla, beating to blend well. Sift flour, salt and cocoa powder and add to bowl. Mix until just combined. Stir in chopped nuts. Spread mixture on prepared baking pan. Bake for about 25 minutes. Brownies will be soft to the touch, and wooden pick inserted in center will come out clean. Allow brownies to cool in pan.

Cut brownies into serving-size pieces. Top each with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, then warm fudge sauce. Use a slotted spoon to arrange minted strawberries around the sundae. Add some whipped cream.

Tips from the cook

--I like to serve these sundaes with sweetened whipped cream. Beat 1 cup heavy whipping cream with 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

--Try serving Minted Strawberries with vanilla ice cream. Scoop ice cream into goblets, spoon the Minted Strawberries with some syrup over the ice cream. Garnish with fresh mint. It makes a light and elegant dessert.

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