It pains me to say it, but at the end of a restaurant meal, I hardly ever order dessert. I'm normally not quite ready. Instead, I meander home, stop at a grocery store, and buy a pint of ice cream. With a carton of my old faithful, I always know what to expect; I can attack the carton with a spoon at my leisure; I can pick out all the cookie dough chunks.

Who needs an ice cream truck? (Bobbi Lin/Courtesy Food52)

But when you're buying cartons of ice cream for a festive celebration (not for a solo Friday night), you might be looking for something fun, interactive, and a little more inventive than the run-of-the-mill sundae bar.

Take that carton and turn it into make-your-own chocolate-covered ice cream pops. You don't need to flag down the ice cream truck. You don't even need to buy a popsicle mold or wait for ice cream to churn. All you need is a well-stocked grocery store, some magic shell, sprinkles, and your sweet tooth as a guide.

(Bobbi Lin/Courtesy Food52)

Here's how to do it:

Prep your materials:

You'll need...

  • Ice cream pints in any flavor you'd like (just make sure they come in paper cartons, as you'll be slicing through, and keep in mind that one pint makes about four pops); we chose mint chocolate chip, chocolate, strawberry, and green tea
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Parchment-lined baking sheets that fit in your freezer (alternatively, lined plates or platters); if you have time, freeze these prior to starting
  • A sharp knife and a bowl of hot water for keeping it warm and clean
  • Magic shell, melted but cool; you can use different types of chocolate (we used milk, dark, and white; or you can make colored shells by using white chocolate and adding food coloring)
  • Garnishes for topping: crushed nuts, sprinkles of all sorts, cocoa nibs, granola, toasted sesame seeds, raw sugar

Magic shell

(James Ransom/Courtesy Food52)

Homemade sprinkles

(Michelle Lopez/Courtesy Food52)

Slice, skewer, and refreeze:

  • Turn the carton on its side and use your sharp knife to cut it into rings, dipping the knife into hot water as needed. The thicker the rings — aim for 1 1/2 to 2 inches — the sturdier the pops will be. (And if you're left with some really skinny rings at the carton's top and bottom, just eat them!)
  • As you slice the carton into rounds, place each one on the prepared baking sheet, peel off the paper lining, and jam in a popsicle stick. Make sure the popsicle stick is centered and stable — it will make life easier when it comes time to dip the pop.
  • Return your ice cream pops to the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes, until they're very firm. You should be able to lift them off the tray without feeling like the popsicle stick is going to dislodge. If you're feeling nervous, try lifting the parchment away from the ice cream instead of pulling the ice cream away from the parchment. (This is a good trick for delicate cookies, too.)

Dip and decorate:

  • When the pops are ready, dip them into the magic shell and place them back on the lined sheet tray. You can submerge the pop completely to enrobe it in chocolate, or you can pretend you're giving the ice cream a French manicure and only paints its edge. You can even do a dual (or tri) dip for multi-colored pops.
  • The shell will harden almost immediately (magic!), so you'll want to decorate immediately following the chocolate bath. Grab a generous pinch of your topping — sprinkles, chopped chocolate, finely chopped toasted nuts, mini M&M'S — and sprinkle across the shell.
  • Be sure to work quickly throughout this whole process and to be as diligent about keeping your ice cream as cold as possible. Work with one tray at a time, keeping the others frozen until you're ready to work with them.
  • Once a tray has been decorated, rush the ice cream back into the freezer until frozen-solid, 2 or 3 hours.

(Bobbi Lin/Courtesy Food52)

That's it! You've practically made your own Nestlé Crunch Ice Cream Bar (if you mix some Rice Krispies cereal into the milk chocolate magic shell and use it to coat vanilla ice cream, you'll nearly replicate it).

Now it's your turn!

Turning your wheels on all of the possible flavor combinations? We've got a few ideas to get you started:

  • Strawberry ice cream + white chocolate shell + graham cracker crumbs
  • Peanut butter ice cream + dark chocolate shell + chopped roasted peanuts
  • Cookies and cream ice cream + milk chocolate shell + crushed Oreos
  • Salted caramel ice cream + dark chocolate shell + chopped toffee
  • Chocolate ice cream + white chocolate shell + cocoa nibs
  • Green tea ice cream + milk chocolate shell + toasted coconut flakes

Even more ways to think beyond the ice cream carton:

What's better than fried ice cream with no frying involved?

(Mark Weinberg/Courtesy Food52)

16 ways to fancy up store-bought ice cream

(Courtesy Food52)

How to hack butter pecan ice cream

(James Ransom/Courtesy Food52)

For spunkier ice cream sandwiches, say "see ya!" cookies

(Linda Xiao/Courtesy Food52)

This story was originally published on Food52.com: Skip the ice cream truck and make your own frozen pops.