Snow Day in July

Snow is the stuff of both dreams and nightmares. Growing up on the east coast, I could anticipate at least two or three days off from school every year due to impassable, slush-covered, perilously icy roads. In those early days before driving or work deadlines were a concern, snow days were gifts better than any mandated calendar holiday. Something about their randomness made them more special; the element of surprise was part of the fun.

With age came a creeping dread of the unknown, intolerance for the cold, and overall distaste for winter. I spent all of my adult life running from it, moving to the warmest places possible to avoid snow days at all costs. Snow is much more acceptable from afar, enjoyed on a TV screen or within a controlled environment. Case in point: Snow cones will always be welcomed with open arms as the best type of blizzard possible.

Nothing takes the edge off of a scorching summer day like a heaping spoonful of freshly shaven ice, ground as finely as a powdery snowfall. It’s brilliantly easy to make this refreshing treat at home! Special equipment is helpful for the best results, but you can absolutely get by with what you have, IE, a food processor or blender. A shave-ice machine will give you a fluffier texture while this alternative method will create a denser texture, more like a packed snow ball.

How To Make Snow Cones without a Machine

  1. Chill the canister of your blender or food processor in advance to prevent the ice from instantly melting upon contact.
  2. Use at least 2 cups of ice cubes per batch, but no more than 4 cups to make sure everything is evenly ground.
  3. Pulse rapidly to break down the ice into smaller pieces, pausing to quickly scrape down the sides of the canister if it’s not all being incorporated.
  4. Continue until the ice is finely ground and looks like snow, with no remaining lumps. Listen closely because the sound will change from loud clattering to a quieter, more even whirring.
  5. Immediately transfer the powdery ice to a container and stash it in the freezer until ready to use.

The only thing more important than the ice is the flavoring! There’s no limit to the possibilities here, whether you want to work with only fresh, whole fruits or go avant-garde with extracts. Add more flair with natural food coloring, which could come out of a bottle or straight from nature. Just as a brief refresher course…

Quick and Easy Natural Food Coloring Options Include:

  • Beet Powder or Beet Juice = Red
  • Carrot Juice = Orange
  • Turmeric = Yellow
  • Matcha, Powdered Spinach or Kale = Green
  • Butterfly Pea Tea Powder AKA Blue Matcha = Blue
  • Ube Extract = Purple

Bear in mind that any liquid colors should replace an equal measure of water to keep the sweetener ratio accurate. These will also be more likely to contribute stronger flavors, so make sure you’re ready to embrace those vegetal tastes or use stronger extracts to cover them up.

When you want a treat with no added sugar, snow cones are just the thing! Prepared sugar-free syrups are an easy, instant fix. For something homemade, just start with ripe, super sweet fruit, and accentuate the flavor with a touch of stevia or monkfruit as needed.

Is it possible to make snow cones or shaved ice without syrup in the first place?

Don’t let syrups limit your imagination. You can start with a full-flavored base by freezing juice, smoothies, and beyond to use as the finely shaved ice going into your cone. An added benefit to this approach is that the ice crystals stay lighter and fluffier since they’re not weighted down with extra toppings, while melting a little less slowly as well.

Minted Matcha Snow Cone
In this minted matcha snow cone, the solids settled at the bottom of the ice. I think that’s a good thing because it makes a uniquely variegated mixture, so every bite is a little different.

Instead of plain water, try freezing any of the following:

  • Brewed and cooled coffee
  • Matcha
  • Fruit juice
  • Smoothies
  • Drinkable yogurt
  • Non-dairy milk (plain, vanilla, chocolate, etc)

Snow cones are truly the best way to enjoy a snow day. They’re naturally vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free, with easy options for making them sugar-free, keto, and paleo-friendly. Best of all, you can enjoy your flurries while chilling poolside under the warm summer sun.

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New Novelties

Summer should be a care-free time of late mornings followed by slow, unhurried afternoons. When the heat becomes unbearable, a brief cat nap in the shelter of leafy, shaded canopy is more than just socially acceptable, but practically mandatory. When fireflies appear along with the onset of nightfall, the warm evenings seem to stretch on forever, infinite as the number of stars brightening the dark sky.

Summers are precious. Don’t force yourself to work when every fiber of your being wants to play. While some commitments are unavoidable, there’s so much more extraneous noise that we could tune out. That’s why I’m happy to spend less time in the kitchen to make those moments count.

This is a quick snack I originally devised to feature a favorite vegan ice cream brand, taking their chocolate-covered raspberry-acai ice cream off the stick and into a fresh parfait. The shatteringly crisp dark chocolate shell gives way to a silken frozen custard filling. Chopping it into cubes makes each layer instantly accessible, without the fear of drips or mess to spoil the snack. Nestled on top of a super fast, fruity chia pudding, the combination is much more substantial than the average novelty to stave off hunger through the most vigorous match of yard darts or pickle ball.

Unfortunately, that brand is no longer the magnificent purveyor of plant-based indulgences I originally fell in love with, so those bars are off the table. Many more have stepped up to the plate, however, making such a simple concept that much more accessible overall.

What brands make the best dairy-free chocolate-covered novelties?

There’s no hard and fast rule that you must use a chocolate-covered pop, but it’s that textural contrast that makes it so compelling. Mix and match flavors at will, swapping in seasonal fruits based on availability, add nuts, sprinkles, or chocolate chips, and most importantly, don’t overthink it. It’s a stretch to call this a full recipe, but for the sake of convenience, here’s the basic blueprint so you can bookmark it for later.

Now get back out there and enjoy the sun. Summer only comes once a year.

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Ice Cream Season

To anyone who decries ice cream solely as a summertime food, buckle up and put on a sweater. I’ve got numerous wintry treats in Super Vegan Scoops! tailor-made for the season that will change your mind.

Apple Pie Sundae

First gradually, and then suddenly, the seasons shift once more. Progressively cooler breezes blow in every night until thick, knit blankets reemerge from storage, unfurling upon beds like the triumphant victory flags of fall. Golden leaves tumble from their branches, crunching and snapping underfoot, dusting every pathway like freshly fallen snow. Tastes adjust as well, directing cravings towards the comfort of warmer, richer foods. When it comes to dessert, no dish better represents this transitory period than the classic apple crisp. A fool-proof formula for success, the combination of tender apples, bubbling away in their own cinnamon- and nutmeg-spiked juices holds universal appeal.

Bearing all the best characteristics of the classic pastry but in with a considerably cooler core, a rich scoop of apple butter-rippled ice cream perches atop warm, fork-tender apples, gently poached and delicately cradled by a single-serve flaky crust. Incorporating the faintly woodsy flavor of burnt sugar, these treats don’t just welcome autumn’s return, but celebrate it with gusto.

Frosty Pumpkin Roulade

The cult of pumpkin spice is unstoppable, growing in tenor and ferocity with every passing season. Pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin spice candles, pumpkin spice cough drops, pumpkin spice lip gloss, and pumpkin spice scratch-and-sniff bandages; they’re all real! If it can be infused with the flavor (or scent) that dominates all of fall, it absolutely will be. Pumpkin pie is at the very top of the Thanksgiving dessert hierarchy of course, as the purest, original manifestation of the flavor sensation.

In light of the newfound fervor for pumpkin spice, I feel a revolution is upon us. Coming from another venerable line of traditional baked goods, ready to unseat the longstanding overlord, is the spectacular pumpkin roulade. Typically filled with airy mounds of vanilla-spiked whipped cream, each spiral of aromatic pumpkin crumb gains even greater appeal with buttery pecan ice cream instead. Wrapping up two desserts into one, pumpkin spice fanatics will have a fresh focus for their seasonal obsession, and fair-weather fans will be mightily pleased, too.

Mulled Wine Sorbet

Drawn to the kitchen by the heady aroma of citrus and spice, the soothing scent of mulled wine evokes memories of the holidays, as warm and cozy as a thick knit sweater. Though typically enjoyed steaming hot, to fortify against a cold winter’s night, it’s also quite delightful served over ice, which is where this much cooler rendition got its inspiration. Pull on your mittens and scarves to embrace this spirited yuletide treat!

Peppermint Bark Roulade

Regardless of holiday party plans, as host or attendee, no matter how long or short wish lists may be, I have two words for you: Peppermint Bark. All it takes is chocolate and crushed candy canes, yet it can elicit the same level of enthusiasm as a laborious multi-tier Christmas cake. You’d think the stuff was sprinkled with pure gold judging by the way some people clamor to snap up piece after piece.

Something about the combination of creamy chocolate slabs, festooned with crunchy red and white striped mint confections seems to strike a chord with everyone, young, old, jolly, and curmudgeonly alike. It’s all about the ratio and quality of ingredients that hits the sweet spot.

Plain peppermint stick ice cream is a wondrous limited edition treat, but without a chocolate crunch, something seems to be missing. Enter, the glorious peppermint bark roulade, complete with creamy candy cane ice cream, topped with crisp chunks of chopped chocolate, all wrapped up in a fudgy, tender chocolate cake. As if that wasn’t enough, the whole thing is smothered in another layer of snappy dark chocolate magic shell, and finished with a flurry of crushed peppermint candy. It’s a bite of holiday joy that’s far better than anything you could wrap up with a bow.

Santa’s Secret Stash Sundae

When he’s on his epic Christmas Eve odyssey, Stanta is powered by the laughter of children, reindeer magic, and the holiday spirit itself, but we all know he needs to stop and refuel on something more substantial every so often. If I were going to treat Mr. Klaus, it would be with this magnificent collection of seasonal specialties. It all starts with a thick, chewy sugar cookie, because tradition does mandate the classic offering. Instead of a wane glass of milk, though, I’m topping it with a generous scoop of eggnog ice cream, melting into the warm skillet while rivulets of tart cranberry sauce burst through each nook and cranny. Lightly spiced nuts crunch through each layer, adding a refreshing textural contrast. Old Saint Nick never tasted a midnight snack quite like this.

Don’t forget about all the evergreen, all-purpose scoops that always hit the spot, any day of the year. There’s never a bad time to slice into a Brooklyn Blackout Ice Cream Cake, or lick a Cannoli Cone, for example. So get cozy, blast the heat, and break out the frozen treats! It’s still ice cream season, as far as I’m concerned.

Let Freedom Ring

Americans are not shy about letting their opinions be known, particularly when it comes to matters of freedom. From the very inception of this country, our founding fathers were shouting from the rooftops about liberty and justice for all. That ideal was a bit skewed and misleading at the time, silently omitting the vast majority of the population, but after a few hundred years of mucking about, I’m cautiously hopeful that we’re on the right path to actually realizing that dream.

“…if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

-Martin Luther King Jr.

On this particularly joyous 4th of July, when many reunite, emerging from quarantine cocoons for the first time in over one and a half years, there’s so much more to celebrate than just the baby steps forward on the journey towards true freedom. Vaccination does feel akin to emancipation; we must never forget the struggle to get here, nor those not fortunate enough to see this day.

It’s truly a bittersweet moment for me, acknowledging both the immense progress we’ve made collectively, and still the terrible, horrendous, and heinous setbacks that continue to plague the country. As a rule, however, I’d like to focus on the positive. Though many still suffer, I want freedom to ring, loud and clear, in every home and especially… Every home freezer.

Yes, it all comes back to food! Finally free to serve friends in-person, I’m thrilled to whip up a batch of frosty ice cream doughnuts from Super Vegan Scoops! to symbolize the endless ring of freedom intended for all inhabitants of these fifty states.

For a more thematically appropriate attire, these cool contenders are all dressed up in a variation of the white chocolate shell icing. For a blue tint, it just takes 1 teaspoon of butterfly pea tea powder (also known as “blue matcha,”) and the red is infused with 1 teaspoon of powdered beets. Add festive sprinkles and voila, you suddenly have some beautiful, festive food to share.

At long last, on this 242nd observance of our independence day, I hope that freedom truly can ring for one and all, and may it taste as sweet as vanilla bean ice cream.

Ice Cream ‘Wich Craft

As July draws to a close, the holidays are fast approaching. Are you ready for the coming festivities?

I’m not talking about Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Diwali, Las Posadas, or Festivus. As if anyone could forget, there’s an even more momentous event right around the corner. August 2nd is National Ice Cream Sandwich Day!

As an avowed ice cream advocate, this is my kind of day. I don’t feel the need to justify or rationalize my indulgence, but as a source of inspiration, the thematic suggestion is always welcome. Sandwiches, one of the earliest frozen novelties, remain one of the simplest. While scoops have gone wild with flavor innovations and popsicles crystallize in every color of the rainbow, most ice cream sandwiches are still plain Jane vanilla.

In the United States, the term typically conjures up visions of a bland slab of beige ice cream, wedged between two thin chocolate wafers that blur the line between cookie and cake. I’m not looking to push the envelope here, but what if we expanded our understanding of the assembly to be a bit more accommodating? Just as there’s more than one way to churn ice cream, there’s more than one sort of wafer in the world.

The wafer I’m most fond of, for example, is the type that’s light as air, crisp like a cracker, and stacked up in slender rectangles with sweet cream filling. This biscuit is essentially synonymous with Voortman Bakery, masters of the edible art form since 1951. Only theirs will stand up to the summer’s heat, and freezer’s chill, without wilting under pressure. In fact, I tend to store them in the freezer when the temperatures climb, not to prolong freshness, but to provide an invigorating, refreshingly cool contrast to a sweltering hot day.

Connecting the dots between these treats and the holiday at hand, it wasn’t a big leap to re-imagine the average sandwich as something remarkable. That is, remarkably delicious AND remarkably easy to make.

Right up front, I must confess: Even by the most generous interpretation of the term, the center of these sandwiches is not ice cream. Set to a frosty, creamy consistency and festooned with colorful sprinkles, you could easily fool the average eater, without anyone feeling betrayed. Based on ingredients and technique alone, it’s more like frozen frosting, but that also means there’s no churning, no cooking, and almost no work required to whip up these treats. In a world where cauliflower can be called rice and zucchinis are noodles, can’t we stretch the definition a bit here?

Sparkling with zesty citrus through and through, thin ribbons of fresh orange peel undulate within a tangy cream cheese base, flecked with real vanilla bean for a rounded, floral sweetness. Flanked by tender orange creme wafers, there’s nothing to interrupt the full-bodied fruity flavor. If you’ve ever craved a good old orange creamsicle, these handheld treats are even better than a dream-come-true.

Such a highly successful experiment really got my wheels turning. Since Voortman makes wafers in just about every flavor you can imagine, the sky (or your freezer space) is the limit. Next time, I might start with strawberry wafers with vanilla ice cream and roll the edges in mini chocolate chips for a modernized neapolitan. There are also banana wafers that are crying out for caramel cream and a quick dip in chopped nuts for a bold new take on the classic banana split. What about trying chocolate hazelnut wafers with chocolate filling and toasted hazelnuts, for all the Nutella-lovers out there?

Trust me, I’m just getting started. There’s never a bad time for frozen treats, but this might just be the best time to join the party.

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