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The Best Summertime Light Meals + Snacks

August 8, 2015 Leave your thoughts Print this page

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Hello everybody, and happy summer! As we speak, I am sitting on my grandparents’ porch, feeling the warmth of the sun and marveling at how pretty dappled trees look in August. The air is filled with energy, the days are long, and everyone seems to be in a good mood.

By the way, did I mention that I’m volunteering on a farm this summer? Well, in case I didn’t, yeah, I’m helping out over at Amber Waves Farm. It’s a pretty sweet gig.

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It’s amazing to be outside in the mornings, pulling vegetables out of the ground with my hands and smelling the earth around me. I’ve done “pick your own” produce since I was a child, but I often forget about where my food is really coming from, so being on a farm is the perfect solution for someone who loves to cook. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to pull cucumbers from the field and eat them for lunch a few hours later, or eat fresh sugar snap peas right off the stalk. Such a nice change of pace from my life as a student.

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(Yes, there is a baby in the CSA box. No, babies are not offered in Amber Waves’ CSA box.)

With the warmer weather also comes warm weather food, which is always best on the simpler, quicker side. Who wants to crank up the oven to 450 degrees or slave for hours over a stove when it’s already hot outside to begin with?! Not I! There’s also suddenly so much more local produce to buy (or for me, to pick), so a savvy chef would best make use of what he or she can find at the farmer’s market, or at least conveniently at the grocery store.

Here are a few ideas for some lighter meals and snacks you can make on these warmer summer days, or at least what I’ve been eating a lot of lately. I hope you enjoy! 🙂

Avocado Toast with Fresh Vegetables

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One day in late spring, I needed to pack myself something for lunch and didn’t have much in the fridge to choose from. I saw half an avocado, some Ezekiel bread, and a leftover tomato from the night before, so I figured, “Well, how bad can it be?!” I toasted up two slices, smashed on some avocado, added the tomato, and garnished everyone with sea salt and black pepper…and when I took a bite, I was WOWED. How could something simple taste so good?!

Avocado toast is a no-brainer on a warm day. It’s filling but not stuffing, and you can really use whatever vegetables are in season, be it cucumbers, tomatoes, or even fresh corn. I recommend investing in a good sea salt, because it’s SO worth it. Add a little lemon zest or juice if you have a second; otherwise, just dig in.

If you’re gluten-free, feel free to use gluten-free bread as your toast or brown rice cakes (which are AMAZING with this). If you’re paleo, try smashing an avocado on top of big slices of raw zucchini or jicama–just find something relatively large and crunchy.

Smoothie Bowls (and Smoothies in General)

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When the weather gets hot, eating a bowl of oatmeal is like a sentence to sluggishness and sweating at 8:00 A.M., at least for me. I need to eat something cool in the morning, or I have the strong urge to go back to sleep, for some reason. Does this happen to anyone else?

Anyway, I love having a big smoothie bowl first thing in the morning. I usually do something simple for the smoothie base–maybe a frozen banana or two with some almond milk or a bit of cocoa powder–then top it off with lots of fresh fruit, especially berries. For some protein, I’ll throw in some cacao nibs, chopped nuts, or hemp seeds, and that keeps me full and happy until lunch time.

I highly recommend adding a handful of spinach or kale to your smoothie, or using a teaspoon or two of spirulina powder to get some veggies and additional nutrients in. If you’re an athlete, feel free to include a scoop of protein powder in your smoothie.

Sushi with Whole Grains

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Sushi tastes SO GOOD, and surprisingly, it really isn’t that difficult to make. It’s light on the stomach, filled with different textures, and can be made to scale: if you’re alone for dinner, sushi is a great choice, and if you’re having six or seven guests, sushi is still a great choice. Just decide how much rice you’d like to make–I’d say about 1/2 (dry) cup per person, to be generous–and get rolling.

Of course you can use the classic white rice, but sushi is delicious with brown rice or even quinoa! With these less starchy grains, I recommend adding a little rice vinegar mixed with some water and a bit of sugar to help hold everything together.

Personally, I’m a big fan of vegetable sushi filled with cucumber, carrots, bell peppers, a little avocado, and some fresh mango, but you can also use fresh seafood if you’d like. (Just make sure it’s sushi grade!) If you’re looking for inspiration, check out my Purple Vegetable Sushi, where I show you how to roll and assemble your own sushi from scratch.

Pasta Loaded with Vegetables

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Not gonna lie, I’m super into pasta. What I love about it is that it’s like a blank canvas for other flavors and can be thrown together in under a half an hour. Even in a typical grocery store, there are so many different kinds of pasta to choose from in all shapes and sizes: pick what looks appealing to you! I love the heartiness of whole wheat pasta, so that’s my usual go-to, but I’m also a fan of brown rice and quinoa pasta. (By the way, the pasta pictured above? Oh yeah, those are llama-shaped, and made out of quinoa. Cool beans.)

Use whatever vegetables you have on hand–onions, garlic, tomatoes, broccoli, the list goes on–and give them a quick saute in some olive oil. Add a splash of wine or broth and maybe a little tomato paste, and voila, you have a great base! Throw in your desired pasta, give it a stir, and garnish with some fresh herbs, sea salt, and pepper.

My best piece of advice is to use a pasta that’s in a similar shape to the vegetables you’re using. For example, if you’ve got little cherry tomatoes in there, use shells or orecchiette (helmet-shaped pasta); if you have sliced onions or julienned zucchini, go for linguini or spaghetti.

Ice Cream and Sorbet…Basically 24/7

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My first dessert was ice cream, and ever since then, it’s been my favorite. I love it all: ice cream, gelato, sorbet, sherbet…if it’s a frozen treat, I’ll try it.

I’m also obsessed with making ice cream and sorbet, if you haven’t been able to tell from my Instagram page. I love coming up with unique flavors and figuring out a way to make them healthier and vegan, if possible. Some of my favorite flavors I’ve tried this year are Cheap Date (date-caramel ice cream with a splash of rum–get the joke?!), black raspberry-sweet corn, and roasted apricot with ginger and walnuts. The possibilities are endless…or you could just be boring and make vanilla or chocolate ice cream. 🙂

Speaking of which, here’s a recipe for you, giving you the low-down on how to make your own sorbet! I tried to be as clear and specific as possible, so whether you’re a novice or an old pro you can still make your own frozen treat to enjoy.

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Sorbet 101 (vegan)

Are you absolutely terrified of making your own ice cream? Has your ice cream machine sat untouched in your closet for years? Do you just eschew from frozen treats because of all of the cream and sugar? Then this recipe is for you: there’s no cooking involved, and all you need is a blender–you don’t even necessarily need an ice cream maker!

Use whatever fruit is in season, or use thawed frozen fruit or tropical fruits (like a combination of bananas and mangoes) in the wintertime.

Pictured in recipe index is an almond-dragonfruit sorbet I made in Hawaii. 🙂

Ingredients

Prep Time 5 min
Cooking Time
Total Time 24 hr
Yield 6-8 servings

4-6 cups of fruit of choice (I love the combinations of strawberry/banana and raspberry/peach)

2/3-1 cup of unrefined cane sugar or coconut sugar

1 tablespoon of vodka or alcohol of choice

1/2-1 tablespoon of vanilla, almond, or citrus extract (optional)

1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice (optional)

Handful of herbs, like thyme, sage, or lavender (optional)

Directions

Here’s how it works: first, put all of your fruit in the blender with NOTHING else. Blend until everything is pulverized, then look on the side and see how many cups of fruit puree you have.

My rule of thumb is to use 3 tablespoons to 1/4 cup of sugar for every cup of fruit puree: for example, if you have 4 cups of fruit puree, use 1 cup (or a little less) of sugar. It doesn’t have to be exact: just round up or down to the nearest whole number if you have, say, 3 1/2 cups of puree.

Feel free to scale back the sugar a little bit, but DON’T overdo it. Because sorbet has no fat, you’re in a battle against liquid to prevent your frozen treat from becoming too icy, and sugar helps keep things from becoming an edible igloo. With tarter fruits–like strawberries and blueberries–you’ll definitely need more sugar, but with sweeter fruits–like bananas and really ripe peaches–you can use less.

Once the fruit has been blended, add the calculated amount of sugar, vodka (this also helps prevent the igloo problem), and extract/citrus juice/herbs, if you’re using them. This is your chance to be creative with your flavors, so go crazy! Here are some combos I’ve made:

  • Strawberry/banana puree with lemon juice and vanilla extract
  • Raspberry/peach puree with lavender
  • Dragonfruit puree with almond extract

Blend again. Once everything has been well-incorporated, pour the puree into a bowl and place it in the fridge to cool for 4-6 hours. This is critical: you don’t want to be putting warm ingredients into the frozen ice cream machine base.

When the cooling time has elapsed, pass the puree through a sieve to remove any seeds or big pieces of herbs that didn’t get blended properly. Now you’re ready to get things rolling!

Here are the two methods for churning the sorbet:

ICE CREAM MACHINE METHOD: Pour the fruit puree into the ice cream machine’s base and churn according to your manufacturer’s instructions. (I churn mine for half an hour, usually.) Once churned, pour into a glass loaf pan or plastic container, cover with a piece of plastic wrap or a lid, and let harden in the freezer overnight (or for at least 12 hours).

BLENDER METHOD: Pour the fruit puree into a large flat glass dish, cover with a piece of plastic wrap, and freeze until just solid, 1-2 hours. Remove the dish from the freezer and cut the contents into squares–it doesn’t have to be perfect–and put them into the blender. Blend until just incorporated, about a minute, then pour the puree back into the glass dish and freeze for another 1-2 hours. Repeat this process twice more, then pour the finished product into a glass loaf pan or plastic container. (The purpose of this is to add air to your sorbet, which will make it creamier and also allow it to freeze better.) Cover with a piece of plastic wrap or a lid, and let harden in the freezer overnight (or for at least 12 hours).

Let the sorbet sit out and thaw for 10 minutes before scooping and eating.


What are some of your favorite summer foods? Leave me a comment here or on Facebook and let me know!


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Sorbet 101 (vegan)

August 8, 2015 Print this page

Are you absolutely terrified of making your own ice cream? Has your ice cream machine sat untouched in your closet for years? Do you just eschew from frozen treats because of all of the cream and sugar? Then this recipe is for you: there’s no cooking involved, and all you need is a blender–you don’t even necessarily need an ice cream maker!

Use whatever fruit is in season, or use thawed frozen fruit or tropical fruits (like a combination of bananas and mangoes) in the wintertime.

Pictured in recipe index is an almond-dragonfruit sorbet I made in Hawaii. 🙂

Ingredients

Prep Time 5 min
Cooking Time
Total Time 24 hr
Yield 6-8 servings

4-6 cups of fruit of choice (I love the combinations of strawberry/banana and raspberry/peach)

2/3-1 cup of unrefined cane sugar or coconut sugar

1 tablespoon of vodka or alcohol of choice

1/2-1 tablespoon of vanilla, almond, or citrus extract (optional)

1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice (optional)

Handful of herbs, like thyme, sage, or lavender (optional)

Directions

Here’s how it works: first, put all of your fruit in the blender with NOTHING else. Blend until everything is pulverized, then look on the side and see how many cups of fruit puree you have.

My rule of thumb is to use 3 tablespoons to 1/4 cup of sugar for every cup of fruit puree: for example, if you have 4 cups of fruit puree, use 1 cup (or a little less) of sugar. It doesn’t have to be exact: just round up or down to the nearest whole number if you have, say, 3 1/2 cups of puree.

Feel free to scale back the sugar a little bit, but DON’T overdo it. Because sorbet has no fat, you’re in a battle against liquid to prevent your frozen treat from becoming too icy, and sugar helps keep things from becoming an edible igloo. With tarter fruits–like strawberries and blueberries–you’ll definitely need more sugar, but with sweeter fruits–like bananas and really ripe peaches–you can use less.

Once the fruit has been blended, add the calculated amount of sugar, vodka (this also helps prevent the igloo problem), and extract/citrus juice/herbs, if you’re using them. This is your chance to be creative with your flavors, so go crazy! Here are some combos I’ve made:

  • Strawberry/banana puree with lemon juice and vanilla extract
  • Raspberry/peach puree with lavender
  • Dragonfruit puree with almond extract

Blend again. Once everything has been well-incorporated, pour the puree into a bowl and place it in the fridge to cool for 4-6 hours. This is critical: you don’t want to be putting warm ingredients into the frozen ice cream machine base.

When the cooling time has elapsed, pass the puree through a sieve to remove any seeds or big pieces of herbs that didn’t get blended properly. Now you’re ready to get things rolling!

Here are the two methods for churning the sorbet:

ICE CREAM MACHINE METHOD: Pour the fruit puree into the ice cream machine’s base and churn according to your manufacturer’s instructions. (I churn mine for half an hour, usually.) Once churned, pour into a glass loaf pan or plastic container, cover with a piece of plastic wrap or a lid, and let harden in the freezer overnight (or for at least 12 hours).

BLENDER METHOD: Pour the fruit puree into a large flat glass dish, cover with a piece of plastic wrap, and freeze until just solid, 1-2 hours. Remove the dish from the freezer and cut the contents into squares–it doesn’t have to be perfect–and put them into the blender. Blend until just incorporated, about a minute, then pour the puree back into the glass dish and freeze for another 1-2 hours. Repeat this process twice more, then pour the finished product into a glass loaf pan or plastic container. (The purpose of this is to add air to your sorbet, which will make it creamier and also allow it to freeze better.) Cover with a piece of plastic wrap or a lid, and let harden in the freezer overnight (or for at least 12 hours).

Let the sorbet sit out and thaw for 10 minutes before scooping and eating.


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Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Ice Cream (vegan)

August 4, 2014 Print this page

I’ve made a lot of ice cream this spring and summer, but it has occurred to me that I’ve never tried a chocolate base. That had to change. And what doesn’t go better with chocolate than raspberries…and more chocolate?! 

Ingredients

Prep Time 2 hr
Cooking Time 15 min
Total Time 2 hr 15 min
Yield 6-8 servings

FOR THE ICE CREAM:

2 cups of raspberries (fresh or frozen)

2 14-ounce cans of full-fat coconut milk

5 ounces of dark chocolate, melted

1/4 cup of unrefined cane sugar (or coconut sugar)

1/3 cup of honey (or coconut nectar)

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 tablespoon of arrowroot powder

1 tablespoon of vodka

1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

FOR THE TRUFFLES:

1/3 cup of full-fat coconut milk

3.5 ounces of dark chocolate

Directions

FOR THE ICE CREAM:

The first step is to make the raspberry portion of this ice cream. Take the raspberries and put them in a small saucepan. Heat over medium, using a spoon to smush the berries and help them release water, and bring to a boil. Once bubbling, reduce the heat to low and cook until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. 

Remove from the heat and transfer to a high-speed blender. Blend completely, then add the 14-ounce cans of full-fat coconut milk, 5 ounces of melted dark chocolate, unrefined cane sugar (or coconut sugar), honey (or coconut nectar), and salt. Blend again, then transfer to a medium saucepan–I recommend you reuse the one you cooked the raspberries in.

Heat over medium and, once warm, remove 1/4 cup of the base. Whisk in the arrowroot powder, then return to the saucepan. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat and add the vodka and vanilla extract. Stir to combine.

Push through a fine-mesh strainer into a heat-proof dish. Cover and refrigerate until cool to the touch, at least 4 hours and preferably overnight.

FOR THE TRUFFLES:

In a small saucepan, heat 1/3 cup of full-fat coconut milk until bubbles begin to form on the surface. Once hot, turn off the heat and pour over 3.5 ounces of dark chocolate. Let sit undisturbed for 5 minutes, then use a spatula to incorporate the newly melted chocolate and coconut milk. Transfer to the fridge until it solidifies, about 3 to 4 hours.

Using a small spoon or ice cream scoop, scoop out a rounded half tablespoon of the chocolate/coconut milk mixture and roll into a ball. Once formed, roll in some cocoa powder and repeat with the remaining chocolate (you should make about 10-12 truffles), then refrigerate to firm up again, about 1 hour.

TO ASSEMBLE:

Cut the each of the newly-formed truffles into 8 pieces and put back in the fridge to chill while you churn the ice cream.

Speaking of which, take out the cooled ice cream base and put it in your ice cream machine. Churn according to your manufacturer’s instructions until the ice cream is the texture of rich soft-serve, about 20 to 25 minutes. During the last 5 minutes, add the chopped up truffle pieces and put them in the ice cream machine while it churns.

Transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and freeze until hard, at least 6 hours and preferably overnight. The next day, let sit out for a minute, then scoop and serve!

 


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Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Ice Cream (dairy-free + vegan option)

August 4, 2014 Leave your thoughts Print this page

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I know what you’re thinking: “Abby, do you have to post another ice cream recipe?!”

And the answer is yes, yes I do. Because ice cream is amazing. And I love it. Especially when it tastes as amazing as this ice cream does.

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I’ve made a lot of ice cream this spring and summer, but it has occurred to me that I’ve never tried a chocolate base. That had to change. And what doesn’t go better with chocolate than raspberries…and more chocolate?!

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One amazing thing about adding chocolate to ice cream bases is that it makes the finished product especially velvety and creamy. I love this quality: every bite melts on your tongue in the most pleasant way possible. The raspberries add a little tartness, which nicely counteracts the chocolate’s richness, making for an absolutely delicious frozen treat.

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I made this ice cream on a Saturday afternoon, and by Monday night, all of it was gone. It was just THAT. GOOD. I hope you’ll make it and think the same. 🙂

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Ready to get ice-creaming? I am! Let’s go.

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The first step is to make the raspberry portion of this ice cream. Take 2 cups of raspberries–fresh or frozen, it doesn’t matter–and put them in a small saucepan. Heat over medium, using a spoon to smush the berries and help them release water, and bring to a boil. Once bubbling, reduce the heat to low and cook until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.

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Remove from the heat and transfer to a high-speed blender. Blend completely, then add 2 14-ounce cans of full-fat coconut milk, 5 ounces of dark chocolate, melted, 1/4 cup of unrefined cane sugar (or coconut sugar), 1/3 cup of honey (or coconut nectar to keep it vegan), and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Blend again, then transfer to a medium saucepan–I recommend you reuse the one you cooked the raspberries in.

Heat over medium and, once warm, remove 1/4 cup of the base. Whisk in 1 tablespoon of arrowroot powder into it, then return to the saucepan. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat and add 1 tablespoon of vodka and 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract. Stir to combine.

Push through a fine-mesh strainer into a heat-proof dish. Cover and refrigerate until cool to the touch, at least 4 hours and preferably overnight.

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Meanwhile, make the truffles to fold in later.

In a small saucepan, heat 1/3 cup of full-fat coconut milk until bubbles begin to form on the surface. Once hot, turn off the heat and pour over 3.5 ounces of dark chocolate. Let sit undisturbed for 5 minutes, then use a spatula to incorporate the newly melted chocolate and coconut milk. Transfer to the fridge until it solidifies, about 3 to 4 hours.

Using a small spoon or ice cream scoop, scoop out a rounded half tablespoon of the chocolate/coconut milk mixture and roll into a ball. Once formed, roll in some cocoa powder and repeat with the remaining chocolate (you should make about 10-12 truffles), then refrigerate to firm up again, about 1 hour.

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Cut the each of the newly-formed truffles into 8 pieces and put back in the fridge to chill while you churn the ice cream.

Speaking of which, take out the cooled ice cream base and put it in your ice cream machine. Churn according to your manufacturer’s instructions until the ice cream is the texture of rich soft-serve, about 20 to 25 minutes. During the last 5 minutes, add the chopped up truffle pieces and put them in the ice cream machine while it churns.

Transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and freeze until hard, at least 6 hours and preferably overnight. The next day, let sit out for a minute, then scoop and serve!

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YES!!! ICE CREAM!!!

What is your favorite fruit to pair with chocolate? Leave me a comment here or on Facebook and let me know!


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Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream (vegan)

July 15, 2014 Print this page

Chocolate and peanut butter are a match made in heaven, and this ice cream is no exception to that rule. Creamy, sweet, and delicious…you won’t miss the dairy!

Ingredients

Prep Time 1 hr, plus 6 hours in the freezer
Cooking Time 5 min
Total Time 6 hr
Yield 6-8 servings

FOR THE ICE CREAM BASE:

2 14-ounce cans of full-fat coconut milk

1/3 cup of smooth natural peanut butter

1/4 cup of coconut oil, melted

1/3 cup of unrefined cane sugar OR coconut sugar

1/3 cup of honey (or coconut nectar to keep it vegan)

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 tablespoon of arrowroot powder

1 tablespoon of vodka

1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

1 recipe chocolate peanut butter cups

FOR THE FUDGE RIPPLE:

2 ounces of dark chocolate, melted

1/4 cup of full-fat coconut milk

Directions

In a high-speed blender, combine the coconut milk with the peanut butter, coconut oil, cane sugar (or coconut sugar), honey (or coconut nectar), and salt. Blend until smooth, then transfer to a saucepan.

Pour a couple tablespoons of the ice cream base into a separate bowl. Whisk in the arrowroot powder to the base in the bowl, then pour it back into the saucepan. Stir frequently over medium heat until the base begins to boil, then immediately stir in the vodka and vanilla extract.

Strain the base through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium-sized bowl, then place in an ice bath in the fridge to cool.

Meanwhile, make the chocolate peanut butter cups. Chop them up slightly and set aside.

To make the fudge ripple, simply combine the chocolate with 1/4 cup of full-fat coconut milk and stir to combine. Spread half of this newly created sauce on the bottom of a Tupperware container or loaf pan and reserve the rest.

Take the ice cream base out of the fridge and churn it according to your manufacturer’s instructions. (I churned mine for a total of 30 minutes for an extra-creamy ice cream.) When the ice cream is about 90% done, add the chopped peanut butter cups to the bowl.

Take out half of the ice cream and put it in the bottom of the Tupperwear container or loaf pan with the fudge ripple on the bottom. Spread the remaining fudge ripple on top of this half of the ice cream, then put the other half on top.

Freeze until completely hardened, about 6 hours. Let sit out for a few minutes before scooping and eating.

 


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