BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Sticky Solutions

Presented with a challenge verging on an outright dare, it’s hard to ignore even the craziest, most curious idea. A recent request for an ice cream base that could be completed with interchangeable flavored syrups, however, took a bit more prodding and begging than usual. Though intrigued, I found myself less than enthused to explore that ambiguous concept. Non-committal to a fault, it’s near impossible for me to pin down a single “correct” method of solving any problem, so to suggest a sole base that could accommodate every flavor that gets thrown at it sounded preposterous. Every recipe is different, as I found especially true while developing Vegan a la Mode, a yet surely there could be some loophole that could allow equal success when the basic composition didn’t change. The one variable in the equation is the actual taste of the liquid sweetener, after all.

First things first, no ordinary simple syrup need apply for this job; only highly concentrated and intense solutions will fit the bill. Since they’re further diluted when mixed with non-dairy milk, it’s a good thing if they verge on too strong when sampled solo. As for the actual flavor, with ready access to culinary extracts and oils, your imagination is limit. Ideal for days far removed from any harvest when quality fruits are hard to come by, such a flexible approach finally turns ice cream into an accessible, all-seasons treat.

Need a bit of color to satisfy your hunger for eye candy? The clear liquid sugar is easily dressed up with any variety of natural food colorings or whole foods-based alternatives. Swap out some of the water for beet or carrot juice; blend the cooked and cooled mixture with a handful of fresh spinach until smooth; add a pinch of turmeric or ground annatto at any point in the process. There’s no excuse for bland treats, either in taste or appearance!

Ultimately, what came out of this sweet challenge is more of a formula- guidelines, if you will- than a hard and fast recipe. Feel free to continue exploring, adapting to taste, and inventing your own unique solutions. For the richest, creamiest texture, opt for full-fat canned coconut milk to complement your syrups, but take into account how that added flavor may (or may not) pair with the other flavors invited to the party.

Syrup-Based Ice Cream

Extra-Strong Syrup:

2 Cups Granulated Sugar
1 Cup Water
1/2 Teaspoon Essential Oil, Candy Flavoring Oil, or 2 – 3 Tablespoons Baking Extract of Choice
Coloring (Optional)

Basic Ice Cream Formula:

2 1/2 Cups Plain Non-Dairy Milk
3/4 Cup Super-Saturated Simple Syrup
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
1 Tablespoon Arrowroot
1/4 Teaspoon Salt

The procedure here really couldn’t be any easier. First, to make the syrup, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and stir briefly to combine. Set over medium heat and cook just until the sugar crystals have all dissolved. Remove the pan from the stove, add your flavor and color of choice, and let cool completely before storing in an air-tight bottle or using in your ice cream

Moving right along to the ice cream, in a medium saucepan, combine all of the ingredients and whisk thoroughly to break up any lumps of starch. Once smooth, set over medium heat. Stir periodically and allow the mixture to come up to a full boil, at which point the liquid should have thickened significantly. Turn off the heat, let cool, and then stash in the fridge to chill for at least three hours before churning.

When nice and cold all the way through, churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the soft ice cream into an airtight container and let rest in the freezer for at least 3 hours before serving, until solid enough to scoop.

Makes 1 Scant Quart

Printable Recipe


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Sweet Relief

National Ice Cream Day, decreed to fall on the third Sunday of July, couldn’t have come at a better time. Still grappling with a week-long heat wave that stubbornly refuses to break or bend, keeping cool is the top priority for anyone living on the east coast. Though always a favorite treat no matter the weather, my appetite for ice cream really kicks into high gear during the dog days of summer, and this year’s sweltering forecast has prompted the same hunger to return with a vengeance.

Well over a year has passed since Vegan a la Mode was published, and yet I can’t stop churning up new flavors. Case in point, the Peach Pie Ice Cream pictured above was inspired by the abundance of explosively ripe stone fruits sitting on the kitchen counter, combined with my new focus on pies. Tender fragments of buttery pie crust are tossed in cinnamon and sugar before being baked to an even golden-brown. Nestled in between lashings of gooey peach jam, each scoopful of peach ice cream tastes like a creamier, cooler version of its namesake. Don’t wait until the next heat wave to add this refreshing yet decadent dessert to you to-do list: Grab the recipe on GoDairyFree.org and start churning as soon as your peaches are ripe!


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Bowl’d Over

Trends come and go, but good food is forever. The acai bowl is one particular dish that may have suddenly risen in popularity thanks to the superfood craze of recent years, but it has proven a worthy addition to anyone’s short list of standby recipes. Little more than a smoothie thick enough to eat with a spoon, something about that small variation in texture gives this treat real staying power. Though skeptical at first, the attraction became immediately clear after I ordered up my first bowlful of sweet, tropical fruit puree while attempting to beat the heat in Honolulu.

Beginning with a basic formula, expect to get a silky-smooth blend of frozen acai, bananas, apple juice, and ice, topped off by fresh cut fruits and granola. Honey often comes standard when ordering out, easily omitted upon request. Besides, the whole mixture is already so sweet, it’s hard to imagine that the sticky topping would really be a beneficial addition.

The real beauty of this cool, creamy, and yet simultaneously crunchy formula is that it’s infinitely adaptable. No matter what fruits, liquids, or toppings you pick, you’re only minutes away from a frozen delight, even before pulling out the blender. At a time when temperatures are only rising and the last thing you want to do is labor over a hot stove or waste a glorious day indoors, few snacks are better suited to summer fun.

Acai bowls strike me as a “choose your own adventure” sort of recipe, where there are no hard and fast rules, except to follow your intuition. Add more or less liquid until you’re happy with the texture, mix up the flavors, and go wild with the trimmings. In fact, though it may be sacrilege to some, I fully endorse omitting the acai for a considerably less pricy option.

Basic Acai Bowl Blueprint

1 Frozen Banana OR 2/3 Cup Frozen Diced Mango or Papaya or Pineapple OR 3/4 Cup Sliced Frozen Peaches, Apricots, or Plums
2 (3.5-Ounce) Packets Frozen Acai Puree OR 1/2 Cup Frozen, Seedless Raspberry, Blackberry or Blueberry Puree (or 1 Cup Frozen Berries- If you don’t mind seeds)
1/2 Cup Ice
1/2 – 3/4 Cup Apple Juice or Orange Juice or Coconut Water or Non-Dairy Milk

Optional Nutrition Boosters: Kale or Spinach, Ground Flaxseed, Protein Powder

Topping Ideas:

Crunchy Stuff: Granola, Cereal, Hemp Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds, Cacao Nibs, Sliced Almonds, Toasted Coconut Flakes

Fruity Stuff: Sliced Bananas, Sliced Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries, Jam or Preserves, Goji Berries, Dried or Freeze-Dried Fruits

Sweet Stuff: Chocolate Chips, Candied Nuts, Sprinkles, Mochi Bits, Chocolate-Covered Espresso Beans, Vegan Marshmallows

As you can imagine, once you know what an acai bowl consists of, the procedure is pretty much self-explanatory. Toss all the ingredients for the bowl itself into your blender and puree until smooth, being careful not to run the machine for too long to prevent the mixture from warming up. Top with crunchy additions, fruit, and more decadent options as desired. Don’t be afraid to look beyond these basic ideas- The different blends are endless!

Makes 1 – 2 Servings

Printable Recipe


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Wild About Frozen Blueberries

I’ve been feeling blue lately… And rather happy about that! Blueberries are abundant once again and my appetite for the sweet, mildly tart and tangy berries is insatiable. For as many punnets as I plow through, my cravings remain unsatisfied. Even as we reach the peak of growing season, the produce on offer left something to be desired. The solution turned out to be just a few steps away, hidden in plain sight. A more intense blueberry experience lay not in the produce aisle, but the freezer case. Frozen Wild Blueberries, grown in Maine and Canada but available worldwide and year-round, are a whole lot more special than you may realize.

Oh sure, frozen Wild Blueberries boast considerable nutritional advantages over conventional, cultivated varieties, such as an unbeatable antioxidant levels just for starters, but that’s not what first lured me over to the wild side. It’s all about the flavor, and they sure do pack a giant punch of it into such tiny packages. That means that you’re getting about twice as many berries per cup, each with less water and more concentrated sweetness than fresh. For a baker concerned about runny pie filling or “bleeding” muffins, such a vast advantage over the competition is invaluable.

Considering the sudden an unpredictable heatwaves rippling through the east coast lately, my thoughts were focused squarely on cooler, more refreshing treats. Referring back to Vegan a la Mode for inspiration, cheesecake sounded like a luscious pairing that would best highlight these indigo gems. Bumping up the intensity with a bold pop of citrus, lemon zest turned the simple flavor pairing into a legitimate flavor party. Enjoying a slowly melting scoop in a fresh waffle cone, the jam-like Wild Blueberry swirl shaking up the creamy confection with the periodically bite of a whole berry, it was exactly the summer-loving taste I had been missing

And yet, that still wasn’t enough. What could possibly take this simple, sweet delight to the next level of dessert perfection?

How about sandwiching it between two thick squares of graham cracker cookie bars, adding more cheesecake character back into the equation while incidentally creating more portable treats? Yeah, that might finally do the trick.

If you should find yourself at a loss for how to dress up your very own frozen Wild Blueberries, and are hungry for a slightly less indulgent sort of refreshment, a good place to turn is Cooking Light‘s latest cookbook, Chill: Smoothies, Slushes, Shakes, Juices, Drinks & Ices. Though not a specifically vegan cookbook, most of the recipes are “accidentally” vegan, and all the rest easily veganizable. Though it may seem like a random tip to throw into the ring, now is the perfect time to check it out and potentially win your very own copy. See the details over at the Wild Blueberry blog ASAP! After all, the only thing better than a Wild Blueberry ice cream treat might be one paired with a tall glass of ice-cold Blueberry-Ginger Juice (page 125.)

Wild Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream Sandwiches

Wild Blueberry Swirl:

5 Ounces (About 3/4 Cups) Frozen Wild Blueberries, Thawed
2 Tablespoons Granulated Sugar
1 Teaspoon Lemon Zest
1 Teaspoon Cornstarch

Graham Cracker Cookies:

3/4 Cup Non-Dairy Margarine
1/4 Cup Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
3 Cups Finely Ground Graham Cracker Crumbs
2 Tablespoons Whole Flaxseeds, Ground
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
2 Tablespoons Vegan Sour Cream or Plain Yogurt

Lemon Cheesecake Ice Cream:

1/2 Cup (4 Ounces) Vegan Cream Cheese
1/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
3/4 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Plain Non-Dairy Milk
1 Teaspoon Lemon Zest
Pinch Salt

Prepare the blueberry swirl first since it will take the longest to cook and fully chill. Combine all the ingredients in a medium sauce pan, stirring well before turning on the heat to break up any possible lumps of starch. Cook over medium heat, stirring periodically, until the mixture comes up to a full boil. Turn down the heat slightly so that it stays at a lively simmer, and cook for 1 minute longer, until thickened.

Remove from the stove, cool to room temperature, and then place in the fridge to chill until cold; about 2 – 3 hours.

Moving along to the graham cracker cookie, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch rectangular baking pan.

Place the margarine and sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer, and cream the two together using the paddle attachment. Once thoroughly beaten and homogeneous, pause the mixer and add in the graham cracker crumbs, ground flaxseeds, salt, cinnamon, and vegan sour cream or yogurt. Starting at the lowest speed, allow the mixer to gently incorporate the newest addition, and continue stirring until the entire mixture is moist will stick together when pressed.

Transfer to your prepared pan and spread it out evenly over the bottom. Press it firmly into a smooth layer, using your hands or the bottom of a flat measuring cup.

Bake for 12 – 15 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool completely before turning the whole cookie sheet out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Use a very sharp knife to slice it cleanly down the middle, forming two equal pieces. Trim away the dark edges so that it measures about 8 inches wide and 5 – 6 inches long.

Line an 8 x 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, and carefully place one of the squares inside, fitting it snugly against three of the four edges. Pull the foil up against the remaining side that comes up slightly short. Place the pan and the remaining square of graham cracker cookie in the fridge.

Meanwhile, the ice cream itself comes together very quickly. Simply pile all of the ingredients into your blender and puree briefly, just until smooth. Blend no longer than necessary to prevent the mixture from warming up.

Pour the ice cream base into your ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Pull out your square baking pan and spoon the soft ice cream on top of the graham cookie sheet inside. Smooth out the ice cream to evenly cover the cookie. Spread the blueberry swirl mixture on top, and use a spatula to swirl both components together. Finally, place the remaining rectangle of graham cracker cookie on top, and press down gently. Immediately move the pan into your freezer and let rest until solidified; at least 8 hours and ideally 12 or more. Slice the large ice cream sandwich into smaller rectangles and enjoy.

Makes 9 – 12 Ice Cream Sandwiches

Printable Recipe

This post was written for and is sponsored by Wild Blueberries, but all content and opinions are entirely my own.


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An Edible Adventure

Inspired by the call for adventurous chocolate recipes by the annual Chocolate Adventure Contest hosted by Scharffen Berger, the only restrictions were that it involve chocolate (naturally) and the results were presented in sandwich cookie format. Still buzzing with frozen dessert ideas after wrapping up Vegan a la Mode at the time, my thoughts naturally turned to ice cream.

Featuring cornmeal, coconut milk, and jalapeño as my adventuresome ingredients, it may not have placed in the contest, but it was still a big winner by my estimation. At the center of it all, rich, creamy chocolate ice cream is accented with a bright pop of fresh peppery spice, combining the contrasting sensations of hot and cold all in one taste. Each slab of the frozen dessert is wedged between two thick, chewy cornmeal blondies sprinkled with big chocolate chunks. While each component is drop-dead delicious separately, they create one truly memorable treat when eaten together in one bite.

Tex-Mex Ice Cream Sandwiches

Jalapeño Chocolate Ice Cream:

1 1/4 Cups Plain Almond Milk
1 14-Ounce Can (1 3/4 Cup) Coconut Milk
1 Large (Approximately 2 Ounces) Fresh Jalapeño Pepper, Finely Chopped
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/4 Cup Natural Cocoa Powder
2 Tablespoons Cornstarch
1 Tablespoon Arrowroot
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1/4 Cup Light Agave Nectar
3 Ounces Bittersweet Chocolate, Finely Chopped
1 Tablespoon Tequila (Optional)
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Cornmeal Chocolate Chunk Blondies:

1 1/2 Cups Yellow Cornmeal
1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Soybean or Garbanzo Bean Flour
1 3/4 Cups Granulated Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Turmeric (Optional, for Color)
1/4 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Cup Semisweet Chocolate Baking Chunks
3/4 Cup Frozen Corn Kernels, Thawed
3/4 Cup Canola Oil
1/4 Cup Maple Syrup
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1 Teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar

For the ice cream, start by combining the almond milk, coconut milk, and jalapeño in a medium saucepan. Toss in the seeds and all, set it over moderate heat, and bring the mixture to a boil. Once bubbling vigorously, immediately turn off the heat, cover with the lid, and let infuse for about 2 hours. Strain, pressing all of the liquid out of the spent pepper, and discard the solids.

Whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch, arrowroot, salt, and cayenne, adding in about 1/4 cup of the jalapeño milk and stir into a thick paste, beating out any lumps of starch. When smooth, incorporate the rest of the liquid, along with the agave, and whisk thoroughly to homogenize. whisk occasionally as it comes up to temperature. When bubbles begin forming around the edges of the liquid, add in the chocolate chips, and just let the mixture sit for 2 minutes, to allow the chocolate to begin melting.

Switch over to a wide spatula, and stir gently, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan, to make sure that nothing sticks and that the chocolate fully melts. Once the mixture comes up to a full boil, cook for just a minute or two longer, and as long as there are no more whole chocolate chips remaining, turn off the heat. Stir in the tequila (if using) and vanilla extract, and let cool completely before chilling thoroughly in the refrigerator; about 3 hours.

Churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once frozen but still soft, transfer the ice cream into an air-tight container and let set up more solidly in the freezer before assembling the sandwiches.

To prepare the blondies, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.

In a large bowl, sift together the cornmeal, all purpose flour, and soy or garbanzo flour, and whisk in the sugar, paprika, salt, turmeric, and baking powder. Toss the chocolate chunks around in the dry goods to distribute them throughout and coat them with flour. This will help to prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the bars while baking. Set aside.

Place the corn, oil, maple syrup, vanilla, and vinegar into your blender or food processor, and thoroughly puree. Pause to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed, until the mixture is completely smooth. Pour these wet goods into the bowl of dry, and with a wide spatula, gently stir the two together.

Transfer to your prepared pan, and spreading the batter out evenly into the corners and smoothing down the top with your spatula.

Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, until the top of the blondies appears set is golden brown. Let cool before slicing.

When you’re ready to assemble to bars, line an 8 x 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil. Slice the full rectangle of baked blondies in half so that you’re left with two equal squares. Place one square into the prepared pan, lining it up flush with at least two of the pan’s sides. If there’s extra space between the other sides, construct a barrier with more foil and stand it up right next to the edge of the blondies. This will help prevent the ice cream from melting out initially.

Soften the ice cream slightly if needed, and mound it on top of the blondie square as evenly as possible. Working quickly, place the second half of the blondies on top, pressing down lightly to smooth the ice cream and adhere the sheet of cookies. Move the whole thing back into the freezer on a flat surface. Let freeze until very solid before slicing. The longer the better- At least overnight.

Finally, turn the entire affair out onto a large cutting board, and with a very sharp knife, slice into 12 – 16 sandwiches. Wrap individually in plastic wrap, or transfer into a spacious container with an air-tight lid. Store the sandwiches in the freezer until you’re ready to enjoy.

An alternate method for assembly: Slice the blondies into bars beforehand and store at room temperature in an air-tight container. Simply top a single bars with a scoop of ice cream when desired, and press a second blondie on top.

Makes 12 – 16 Ice Cream Sandwiches

Printable Recipe


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POP into Summer!

Instant frozen treats, ready mere minutes after the first craving hits. Sounds like science fiction, but if a “better tomorrow” starts with dessert, then we are well on our way. Standard ice creams and popsicles take hours at minimum, simply freezing to a solid enough consistency to eat, but the Zoku Quick Pop Maker has taken all the waiting out of the process. Using an insulated mold, all warmth is wicked away from liquids poured inside, be it an ice cream base, melted sorbet, or merely juice, turning into an icy treat on a stick right before your eyes.

In the name of “research” for my ice cream book, I found it entirely necessary to test out this crazy contraption, requesting a review model early on. This was, of course, over a year ago now. After snapping that initial photo of the device, admiring the appealing rounded edges and pop-art designs on each plastic stick, and carefully stowing it in the freezer… It remained there, untouched, month after month. Despite the fact that freezer space was at a premium, that thing did not budge from the top shelf, on the offhand chance that I would have time to play with pops. While the assessment may be a bit belated, I can tell you this much: It will be getting a whole lot of use from here on in.

Initially spurred into action by a job for Allergic Living Magazine that called for striped fruit-and-creme pops, dreamed up by my good friend Alisa, this was the perfect kick in the butt to get this thing out of the freezer at last. The unique freezing system allows the pop maker complete creative freedom, freezing stripes of any size or shape, should you tilt the housing in the middle of the process. A three-layer affair was a snap, straight-forward enough that even the least ambitious dessert dabblers would be able to manage such an effect with ease.

Another fun feature is the ability to stick fruits and other “mix-ins” directly to the walls of the machine, so that they’re perfectly visible once the pops are removed. In fact, they now make tiny cookie cutters that allow you to create faces on your pops, really giving them some personality. Going a more simple route, I merely used sliced strawberries to feature in my Strawberry Cereal Milk Pops. Easily veganizing Christina Tosi’s legendary recipe with almond milk, all I had to do was pour in the cornflake-infused milk after adhering the berries, and just like that, a delightfully frosty breakfast-turned-dessert was born.

The real beauty of this toy is how it can cater to every whim and craving. On impulse, it seemed fun to whip up a frozen chia fresca one hot afternoon, and so without delay, that’s just what I did. Though the seeds still floated to the top, it made for a fantastically refreshing solution to a sweltering summer day. Experimenting like this is effortless and painless, so even the flops won’t set you back. Just thaw and wash out the mold, thoroughly dry, refreeze for a day, and you’ll be ready to go all over again.

I still haven’t even scratched the surface in trying out all that this baby is capable of. With the help of a handy siphon, pops with different flavored cores are a breeze as well. A classic but homemade creamsicle or strawberry shortcake could be mere minutes away! In case you ever find yourself at a loss for ideas, the mad geniuses at Zoku have you covered there, too. In addition to their blog filled with recipes, they’ve even created a whole pop cookbook to keep you inspired. Easy and inviting enough for kids of all ages to enjoy, I can’t think of a single person I wouldn’t recommend this fun gadget to. Even couples and singles have options now, with double and single pop capacity molds, in case a freezer full of tempting treats is not an ideal situation. Personally, my only complain would be the opposite: I could never make enough pops to keep the freezer stocked for very long!


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The Drunken Grape

It’s reasonable to expect a scorching summer ahead, at the rate the temperature is rising already. When was the last time you could even dream of donning shorts and flip flops come mid-April? It may be a sign of worse things to come, but right now, this sudden taste of the tropics is a welcome wake-up call from winter. Best of all, it’s now perfectly reasonable to bust out that ice cream maker and get churning, no further excuses necessary.

Rum raisin would have to be on the short list of classic parlor flavors, an essential scoop that must make every menu worth its salt. Sure, raisins can be a polarizing ingredient in desserts, but when soaked in spirits and thoroughly intoxicated on a heady mix of rum and sugar, what’s not to love? A mere replication of this tried-and-true formula wasn’t enough to satiate my appetite for experiment though, and my mind turned to other candies and successful raisin dessert mash-ups.

Ultimately an amalgamation of both the classic rum raisin ice cream and yogurt-covered raisins, the resulting marriage of tart, sweet, and slightly boozy makes me wonder why no one makes the traditional candies infused with spirits in the first place. Do yourself a favor and lose the the waxy coatings in favor of a smooth and creamy coat of thickened vegan yogurt- You’ll end up with not only a healthier treat, but a much more satisfying and grown-up option as well. This particular recipe may have been cut from the final line up in Vegan a la Mode, but there’s yet another rendition on this drunken raisin dessert, with a more chocolaty twist…

Rum Raisin Frozen Yogurt

3 Cups (1 24-Ounce Container) Plain Soy or Coconut Yogurt
2/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
2/3 Cup Raisins
3 Tablespoons Dark Rum
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1/4 Teaspoon Salt

Line a strainer or colander with cheesecloth and fill with soy yogurt. Wrap the edges of the cheesecloth over the yogurt until fully covered, and place strainer or colander over a pot deep enough to catch the liquid and keep the yogurt from sitting in the moisture. Cover pot with plastic wrap and let sit in the refrigerator for a minimum of 8 hours. You should end up with about 2 1/2 cups of thick yogurt.

In a medium bowl, combine the strained yogurt, sugar, raisins, rum, vanilla, and salt. Stir well, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. Yes, this one does take a good measure of patience, but allowing the flavors to meld and develop before churning will create a more complex and harmonious final product. Plus, by effectively soaking the raisins for a good couple of hours, this will prevent them from turning into rock-hard icicles once they hit the freezer.

The following morning (don’t worry, there’s no shame in admitting you wanted to sneak a scoop for breakfast!) freeze mixture in an ice cream machine based on the manufacturer’s instructions. For a soft-serve consistency, serve immediately after freezing. For a firmer consistency more like standard ice cream, pack into an airtight container and let chill in the freezer for at least 4 hours.

Makes About 1 Quart

Printable Recipe


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When You Feel Like a Nut

One sip of almond milk, so many years ago, was all it took to convert me to a believer; I haven’t looked back to soy ever since. Smoother, creamier, and without the distinctive bean-y undertones soy is apt to impart, the choice for both baking and drinking was clear. The biggest downside to the switch was in nutrition; quite simply, no nut can compete with legumes on the protein front. Finally, the gap is beginning to close, thanks to another brilliant innovation by So Delicious. Almond Plus almond milk has the best of both worlds, and doesn’t taste like a compromise in the least bit.

Perfectly smooth, this silky elixir has a velvety thickness that goes down easily, whether it’s topping cold cereal or drank straight from the carton. Either the Original or Vanilla flavors are irresistible as stand-alone drinks, and I’m not often inclined to down a plain glass of “milk.” Unsweetened blends seamlessly into savory dishes, and has become a fast favorite for creamy sauces, such as the classic alfredo. Perfectly suited for baking and dessert making as well, it’s quickly become my go-to “milk” for making ice cream. Luckily, for those lacking the patience or equipment, So Delicious has you covered with a brand new line of almond milk ice creams all their own.

Diving first into the basics, the Chocolate and Vanilla make a dazzling first impression. Unlike their other recent creation, coconut milk ice cream, the base is a silent player here, allowing the star ingredients to shine in their respective pints. Soft and easy to scoop straight from the freezer, the chocolate does err a bit more on the sweet side, but I can see it having huge appeal with children especially. Impressively complex in flavor, it’s much more than mere cocoa; such richness belies a truly modest nutrition panel. Vanilla actually tastes like vanilla, and not just an anonymous “plain” option. In fact, it tastes more like homemade ice cream than anything I’ve tried out of a commercially packed cardboard pint, which is about the highest compliment I can bestow.

Even with such high expectations, it only gets better from there.  Cherry Amaretto is not one I would pick up on my own accord, but one taste forced me to change my tune, because I would definitely buy it from here on out. Cherry-flavored desserts often rub me the wrong way, with artificial flavors carrying most of the weight in  a truly unnatural, over-concentrated sort of way. Such a sin is not one committed here, as the chunks of real cherry are impossible to miss. A light cherry essence is found throughout, accented by the barest hint of amaretto flavor, which rounds out the dessert nicely.  Those big chunks of sweet cherries and delightfully chewy, rather than icy, like so many poorly planned fruit additions. A sophisticated yet still playful combination, it’s clearly designed for a more mature audience, by would undoubtedly be enjoyed by the younger set as well.

Butter Pecan stole my heart with just its name. More than merely butter-y, it’s in fact butterscotch-y, with deep caramel notes mingling seamlessly with the floral vanilla flavor. Tons of sizable pecan pieces add a satisfying crunch, and assert themselves properly to justify the name. A subtle hit of salt serves to intensify this complex ice cream, accentuating all of its best features. For the next Thanksgiving dinner, I’m highly tempted to simply pack this ice cream into a flaky crust and call it pecan pie!

Picking a favorite flavor out of this incredible selection is almost as difficult as picking a favorite child, but I can’t deny that the Mocha Almond Fudge would undoubtedly rank very high on my list. More than mere coffee and cocoa, there’s a whole lot going on in each spoonful. A gooey fudge ripple marbles throughout the pint, adding a blast of chocolate decadence every now and then, like built-in hot fudge sauce. Huge, plentiful chunks of fresh and lightly roasted almonds keep things exciting, although the smooth coffee backdrop would hardly be dull all by itself. I have a feeling that even coffee-haters may love this ice cream- It’s just that good.

Many other of So Delicious’ classic ice cream flavors will also be available in almond milk format, and let’s not forget about the novelty treats, too. Naturally, I wolfed down the whole box of Mocha Almond Fudge Bars in record time, but the Vanilla Bars were not long for this world, either. Something about that crisp, fast-melting chocolate coating makes this already killer ice cream even more irresistible. Biting into that frozen cloak of cocoa, it yields with a satisfying snap, revealing the contrasting creaminess within. It’s the kind of addictive treat I can’t keep on hand regularly if I hope to maintain a diet that includes edibles other than ice cream.

Though I was terribly spoiled by a sneak-peek shipment of these items, most should already be available in specialty markets such as Whole Foods across the US by now. When I’m ready to give the ice cream maker a much deserved break, I know just where to turn for delicious frozen desserts. To share the almond love a bit, So Delicious provided 2 freebie coupons for any of their products, so that means that two lucky readers will get to pick out something sweet, on the house! Just leave a comment that includes a valid email address, and tell me what your favorite flavor of ice cream is. The giveaway will close to new entries on Friday (the 13th!) at midnight, EST. Check back in this space to see the winners.

UPDATE: As chosen by the random number generator, the winners are…

#17, Roopa!

and

#31, Allie!

Congrats, and to everyone else, don’t go far- I’ve got another giveaway coming up very soon…


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Leftovers

The dust is finally beginning to settle after the final grueling round of edits for Vegan a la Mode, and I can breathe more easily once again. It may actually be done. Such a crazy thought, to consider that my third cookbook is on it’s way, possibly being printed as we speak. It sure didn’t happen overnight though; like most of my grand concepts, this one has been churning for a couple years now, before I even knew I wanted to do a book devoted solely to frozen treats. The gentle hum of the ice cream maker was my siren song, and I couldn’t stop dreaming up creamy concoctions even if I tried. It was a natural segue to turn those recipes into a book, where they could all live happily together. But like any process that drags on through months and months, evolving with the changing seasons and weathering different patterns of inspiration, there had to be some difficult cuts to make at the end of the line. As per usual, I had too many ideas, too many words, and not nearly enough pages to stretch my writerly legs.

Perfectly tasty ice creams had to be set aside to make the book work as a whole, and this Maple Nut Royale was one of them. Sandwiched between a maple-pecan number and a handful of other peanut-based confections, it simply made sense to pare back. It took the news with grace, but I could tell it was quite disappointed it wouldn’t see the pages of a published book after all. Leftover but still perfectly good, this creamy, nutty ice cream seemed like the perfect little teaser to share here instead. One of the earlier recipes I churned up, circa 2009, the photo may not be my best work, but I like to think that the deliciousness still shows all the same.

Maple-Nut Royale Ice Cream

3/4 Cup Creamy Peanut Butter
2/3 Cup Maple Syrup
2 Cups Plain Non-Dairy Milk*
2 Tablespoons Cornstarch
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Almond Extract
1/4 Cup Finely Chopped Toasted Pecans

*Almond milk is recommended to further the nutty theme, but any sort of non-dairy beverage, other than rice milk, will do.

Combine all of the ingredients, except for the pecans, in a medium saucepan until smooth. You can bring things together more easily in a blender, but it should smooth out with a sturdy whisk and just a bit of elbow grease, too. Set the saucepan over medium heat on the stove, and continue to whisk gently, scraping the bottom and sides as you go, to prevent the mixture from sticking and burning.

Cook until the liquid comes to a boil and has thickened significantly; bubbles should break slowly but regularly on the surface. Turn off the heat, and let cool to room temperature before chilling thoroughly in the fridge. Allow at least 2 – 3 hours for the mixture to come down to a cooler temperature.

Once chilled, churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. In the final 5 minutes of churning, add in the chopped pecans, and allow the moving paddle to incorporate them into the soft ice cream. Transfer to an air-tight container, and stash in the freezer for at least 3 hours to further harden before scooping and serving.

Makes About 1 Quart

Printable Recipe


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Tasty Takeout at Home

There’s a lot to be said for ready-made frozen meals, even for the avid cook and fresh food fanatic. Having a plan B safely squirreled away, just in case of a dinner emergency, can make the difference between choking down impossibly tough seitan burgers or enjoying something a bit more edible. Well aware of a certain bias against most prepared foods, I will go on the record to say that there is nothing inherently wrong with the classic tv dinner every now and then; it’s the ingredients and the over-processing where these easy options frequently go wrong. Homemade frozen meals of leftovers are fantastic, and the only difference is that you’re still the one doing the legwork to put that food on the table. For the overworked mom, student, busy professional, or anyone who doesn’t spend all of their waking hours in the kitchen, a warm, relatively healthy meal that can be on the table in five minutes or less can be downright miraculous. The key is choosing the right brands to pledge your dinner allegiance to.

New on my radar but hardly newcomers to the freezer aisle, Vegetarian Plus has been cranking out the meatless frozen meals for years now, providing vegan options directly to consumers and to larger institutions that wish to feed them. Featuring easily accessible flavors for even the pickiest palates, while still covering a whole world of exotic cuisines, they’re excellent for serving to a crowd with varied tastes.

Plate provided by Steelite

Take for example, their latest offerings of Indian-inspired entrees. Vegan Chicken Tikka Masala, looking for all the world like curried poultry, rather than its actual soybean fiber and wheat protein construction. Redolent of warm spices and a certain savory scent, the flavor is shockingly on par with some of the better takeout I’ve had. Initially sweet but switching over to spicy in seconds, the spice profile is impressively well-balanced, and on the spicier side for a mainstream meal. Nothing to burn a hole through your tongue, for sure, but lively in flavor and fairly true to its title. I would absolutely purchase this again in the future, and anyone who appreciates Indian food should take a chance on it too.

Defrosting a package of Vegan Lamb Vindaloo on another hungry and somewhat desperate evening, I had no clue what to expect. I’ve never eaten lamb, so I can’t say with any authority how authentic those protein chunks were, but I can tell you that the texture seemed chewier, perhaps gamier as far as imitation meat goes, and more similar to seitan than the previous offering. Somehow the flavor struck me as less rich, and a bit lacking in body compared to the first amazing meal, but rest assured, I had no problem cleaning my plate. Unarguably spicier, those craving a meaty meal with some bite to it would no doubt enjoy this.

Craving greasy but oh so good Chinese takeout? Vegetarian Plus has got you covered there, too. Their Vegan Kung Pao Chicken tastes as though it could have just as easily come from a cardboard carry-out box as your own freezer. Not just an homage to the idea of kung pao, this version goes the whole nine yards; coated in the same shiny, vaguely sticky, semi-sweet and generously salted sauce, it coats the palate richly, perfectly scratching that itch for something a bit indulgent. As “authentic” as American Chinese food goes, this is exactly what I remember chowing down on as a picky omnivore ages ago. Accented by a decent kick of heat, it manages to avoid descending down the sad path of bland Americanized ethnic food, so it may even have a leg up on the competition.

I must admit that what I was most intrigued by, however, was not the offering of a completely ready made and defrostable dinner, but the possibilities presented by their Vegan Shrimp. Packaged with a sweet chili sauce that I didn’t particularly enjoy, the “shrimp” needed only a bit of love to become something even better. Genuinely fishy, they both looked and smelled the part. Sure, the mere concept may sound dubious at best, but they don’t deserve the harsh judgement they’ve so often received. Bouncy between the teeth and relatively bland unadorned, the flavor strikes me as being very similar to the somewhat controversial shirataki noodles. Either you love them or you hate them, so the same could probably be said for these “shrimp.”


Plate provided by Steelite

Lightly pan-fried in a generous dose of garlic I dressed up my imitation crustaceans as a riff on shrimp and grits. Rather than making grits from dried cornmeal, my version is more like a cross between polenta and creamed corn, utilizing fresh, coarsely pureed corn for a brighter, lighter flavor. You certainly don’t need fake shrimp to enjoy it though; a bit of crispy tofu on top would be just as good, if slightly less convenient for the harried cook.

Fresh Corn Grits

1 Tablespoon Non-Dairy Margarine, or Coconut Oil
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Large Shallot or 1/2 Small Yellow Onion
1 Teaspoon Light Agave Nectar
3 Cups Fresh or Frozen Sweet Corn, Thawed
3/4 – 1 Cup Unsweetened, Plain Non-Dairy Milk
2 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
Salt + Pepper

Melt your margarine or coconut oil in a saute pan over medium heat, and swirl in the olive oil. Add the shallot and cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened. Incorporate the agave and continue to saute for 10 – 15 minutes, until lightly golden brown. Toss in the corn next, and allow about 5 – 10 more minutes on the flame to soften the corn and enhance its sweeter flavors.

Transfer everything into your blender or food processor, along with 3/4 cup of the non-dairy milk and nutritional yeast, and plus lightly until the mixture is creamy, but still has a good bit of texture to it. Drizzle in more non-dairy milk if needed, to reach your desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.

If preparing the “grits” in advance, add more non-dairy milk when reheating, because it thickens significantly as it sits.

Serves 3 – 4 as a Side Dish

Printable Recipe

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