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Family Central: Belly Up to the Ice Cream Bar

To my children, you know what’s the best part of the frozen-yogurt shops that have popped up the last couple of years? The topping bar. What kid doesn’t love the idea of getting a free hand with the gummi worms, crushed Oreos, chocolate chips or anything else they want?

For much the same reason, that’s probably my least favorite part of getting fro-yo. It’s not just my lack of control; it’s the way the bill can add up so fast once kids start ladling on the charge-by-the-ounce toppings.

So why not steal the idea for your home?

An at-home sundae bar is fun to put together for parents and children, and you can probably feed all the neighborhood kids for about what you’d drop at a specialty store for just your own family. Serve it outside, setting up each ingredient in its own container, and you can let the kids go wild without worrying (too much) about the mess.

About 12 to 15 toppings, and ice cream or fro-yo in vanilla, chocolate and strawberry, gives guests plenty of combo options. Start with what you’ve already got in the pantry; this is also a good way to sneak in some more nutritious options. For instance, I like to substitute crushed graham crackers or animal crackers for crushed cookies, and put out yogurt-covered raisins and nuts instead of M&Ms and Reese’s Pieces. You can get small quantities of many items in our bulk department, including banana chips, granola, carob-covered almonds, flaked coconut, vegetarian gummy cubs, and dried cranberries.

Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are the perfect fruit toppings in summer. (Toss berries with a little honey or superfine sugar before serving, to give them a sweeter edge.) Finally, it wouldn’t be a sundae without whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and at least one other sundae sauce. Here’s an easy-to-make one that uses in-season blueberries.

Pineapple/Blueberry Sundae Sauce
1 (8 oz) can crushed pineapple, drained
1/4 cup pineapple or blueberry preserves
1 cup fresh blueberries

Place pineapple and preserves in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add blueberries, stirring well. Chill for at least two hours before serving.