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Looking for a refreshing treat to enjoy before summer comes to an end? Invite your friends, family and neighbors to an ice cream social.

The first thing is to do is stock up on ice cream. But what kind?

"Well, you always have your classics," said Nathaniel Gage, store manager of the Great Barrington SoCo Creamery Ice Cream shop. "Vanilla, chocolate, dirty chocolate, and salted caramel are some of our own flavors that people always ask for. ... Cookies and cream and cookie dough may be other some other delicious options. And if you're feeling fruity, strawberry and black raspberry could do the trick."

Diane Krol, program manager — School Wellness for the New England Dairy & Food Council, offered a fun way to make homemade ice cream — squeeze freeze ice cream. "All you need are a few simple ingredients, a couple of resealable plastic bags and a little muscle power. Everyone can make their own serving."

Squeeze freeze ice cream

(Courtesy of Midwest Dairy)

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup whole milk

1 tablespoon salt

Ice cubes

OTHER ITEMS:

Small resealable plastic bag

Large resealable plastic bag

Measuring spoons

Plastic spoons

DIRECTIONS:

Put sugar, vanilla and milk into small plastic bag. Remove as much air as possible from the bag and properly seal. Put salt into large plastic bag. Drop the small bag into the large plastic bag with salt in it. Add 18 to 20 ice cubes. Remove as much air as possible from the large bag and properly seal. Knead the bag for approximately 10 minutes, making sure ice in the larger bag surrounds the smaller bag.

When a soft ice cream is formed, remove small bag from large bag, open and eat right out of bag with a plastic spoon. For extra fun, add fresh seasonal fruit or other favorite ice cream toppings.

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Notes: It is important to use whole milk. Other types of milk take too long to freeze. Salt is also very important. Without it, the ice cream will not freeze. One pint of half and half can be added to a gallon of milk. This makes the ice cream richer and freezes faster.

And what about toppings?

"You need your rainbow sprinkles," said Gage.

Other essential additives include fudge and caramel sauce. If you're getting fancy, you could even add some butterscotch sauce, brownie bits, and chocolate chips, he said, adding waffle cones or cake cones also add a nice crunch to your summer delight.

Krol gave some suggestions for topping that were both tasty and nutritious. "Fresh or frozen berries, any variety or mixed, are always good choices," she said. "Almonds and other nuts, shaved coconut, fresh mint are good, too. And why not substitute out sprinkles for chocolate-covered sunflower seeds?"

Her other suggestions were dark-chocolate chunks, crushed pretzels or graham crackers and homemade granola.

And what is an ice cream sundae without whipped cream? Heidi Harkopf, registered dietitian and director of Nutrition Programs for the New England Dairy & Food Council, offered a recipe for homemade Greek yogurt whipped cream.

"Making Greek yogurt whipped cream might sound a bit daring for your next gathering, but you will be amazed at how the soft tangy peaks complement fruit and provide a wonderful contrast to many sweet desserts," she said. "In addition, you'll get the nutritional benefits of the yogurt and the probiotics within. The tang of the yogurt also makes this a great addition to meals other than dessert. Try it on your pancakes for an extra special touch, or atop roasted vegetables."

Homemade Greek yogurt whipped cream

(Recipe adapted from Food52.com)

To make Greek yogurt whipped cream, start out by swapping 1/4 of your cream with the low-fat or fat-free yogurt before whipping. For an even tangier taste, substitute 1/2 of the cream with yogurt. Just as you would make whipped cream, beat the cream and yogurt combination using a hand-held or stand mixer at medium to high-speed for several minutes until peaks begin to form.

Flavor variations:

Vanilla or almond whipped cream — Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of vanilla or almond extract per cup of cream. Optional: Add 1 tablespoon sugar per cup of cream to sweeten.

Cinnamon whipped cream — Add 1 teaspoon cinnamon per cup of cream. Optional: Add 1 tablespoon of sugar per cup of cream to sweeten.

Maple whipped cream — Add 1/4 cup maple syrup to 1 cup of cream. Optional: Add 1 tablespoon sugar per cup of cream to sweeten.

Chocolate whipped cream — Stir 2 tablespoons cocoa with 1/4 cup of cream until smooth, then add additional 3/4 cup cream until cocoa is dissolved, then whip. Optional: Add 2 tablespoons sugar to sweeten.

Coffee whipped cream — 1 1/2 teaspoon instant coffee granules per cup of cream. Optional: Add 2 tablespoons sugar to sweeten.

Important note: When getting ready for your ice cream social, don't forget all the important basic necessities — ice cream scoops, bowls and spoons. You can't do without them!