(I can tell you're imagining a room obsessively decorated with monkey overkill, but I pinky swear on these ice cream sandwiches that it's not.)
As delicious as Ben & Jerry's ice cream is, it's also high in added sugar and full of dairy products and stabilizers. The ability of frozen bananas to turn into creamy ice cream quickly solved that problem. A bit of almond milk and a handful each of chocolate chunks (or chips if you run out of chocolate bars like I did. Oops.) and walnuts and you're left with the healthiest version of a Ben & Jerry's flavor I've ever seen.
The cherry on top of this recipe? With a good dose of protein, fiber, carbs, and healthy fats, you can eat these for breakfast, or cut one into smaller squares and eat a couple for a pre-workout snack. The only "unhealthy" part of these is the added chocolate in the ice cream - and even that has been shown to have health benefits. If you use cacao nibs instead of chocolate chunks, you definitely have zero reason not to indulge.
chunky monkey ice cream sandwiches
adapted from the chocolate layer of our chocolate banana almond fudge
1 1/2 cups dates, soaked in warm water for 5-10 minutes, drained and pitted (I used 18 dates)
1/2 - 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (see notes)
1 1/2 cups raw unsalted walnuts
Pinch of salt
2 large ripe bananas, cut into coins and frozen until solid
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (see notes)
1/3 - 1/2 cup raw unsalted walnuts
1/3 - 1/2 cup chopped bittersweet or dark chocolate (see notes)
To make the brownie, pulse walnuts a few times in a food processor to chop them. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Process dates until they are broken into pieces but are not yet one uniform ball. Add cocoa powder and salt and blend until the dates are fully broken down and the mixture is completely combined. Add walnuts and pulse a few times to incorporate.
Press half of the mixture evenly into an 8" x 4" bread pan lined with parchment paper or plastic wrap. Lightly press more paper or plastic over the top of the brownie and press the remaining brownie on top. Cover and store in the freezer while making the ice cream.
To make the ice cream, pulse the walnuts in your food processor as before. Put in a medium bowl (the ice cream will need to be able to fit in it comfortably) and set aside. Process the bananas until mostly smooth. With the motor still running, pour in almond milk and vanilla and blend until smooth and creamy. Transfer to the bowl with the walnuts, add the chocolate, and gently stir until combined.
Remove the brownie from the freezer, and take the top layer of brownie and put aside. Pour ice cream over the bottom brownie layer, spreading it evenly. Top the ice cream with the brownie layer previously set aside, being careful not to press down too hard on the soft ice cream. Lightly cover with plastic wrap or parchment paper and freeze for three to four hours.
Remove sandwiches and cut into eight equal squares. Allow to soften for 10-15 minutes before serving, or wrap in plastic or paper and store in the freezer to save for later.
- The amount of cocoa powder used will affect how rich the flavor of the brownie is. Start with 1/2 cup and taste, then increase to reach desired flavor.
- Use cacao powder, the seeds from 1/4 of a vanilla bean, and cacao nibs instead of chocolate chunks to make this raw.
- The amount of walnuts and chocolate you use depends on how chunky you want your ice cream to be.
- Chocolate chips, while less like the original ice cream, may be used if chopped chocolate is unavailable.