Icy, Creamy, Healthy Sweet: A Cookbook, Not an Oxymoron.

 

icecreamyAs a child of the ‘70s, my memory of frozen summer treats includes Popsicles loaded with red dye number 40, Fudgsicles, and – my personal favorite – the push pop: an empty toilet paper roll filled with rainbow sherbet. The notion of a “homemade frozen treat” was about as foreign as the Internet.

As a modern-day mom, I try to resist my ‘70s upbringing and avoid meals that come from a can or a box; opting instead to cook from scratch whenever possible. For some reason, however, this practice has not extended to frozen treats. I have admittedly purchased the useless Slushy Magic, and did pat myself on the back for buying plastic Popsicle molds, into which I poured orange juice and lemonade. I know there’s a plethora of healthy, delicious recipes out there, but I just haven’t felt they’re worth the effort … that is until a recent visit to my sister-in-law’s.

Now if I think I’m a purist when it comes to cooking, she puts me to shame. She utters sentences like “when I made homemade gummy bears” or “while I was pressing almonds for milk” without an ounce of pretention. It was no surprise to me then that she often creates homemade frozen treats for her kids. She handed me her recent concoction: a key lime pie ice cream sandwich, which she told me was made with spinach. As I reached for the blob of green ice cream between what looked like two homemade graham crackers, I felt skeptical. How good this could be?

To call this an ice cream sandwich is like calling Prego “Italian gravy.” The ice cream, which was, in fact, made with spinach — as well as coconut milk, cashew cream and lime juice — was creamy and tart. The graham crackers were perfectly crisp and spiced heavily with cinnamon. Even though I felt intimidated at the thought of making such a treat, I needed to know where she was getting her recipes. So she told me her source: a cookbook titled Icy, Creamy, Healthy, Sweet written by Rhode Island’s own Christine Chitnis.

As I glanced at the 75 recipes for everything from ice cream to shakes, I decided to start with something simple: Mexican chocolate pops. I melted coconut milk, unsweetened cocoa powder and honey together and added cinnamon, vanilla, cayenne and avocado. I threw it all into my magic bullet and poured the mixture into my plastic Popsicle molds. I had some left over so I dumped it into a bowl, added extra cayenne and had Mexican chocolate soup for lunch while the Popsicles chilled. Did I feel disgusting and ashamed? Hell no – there was avocado in there!

The pops – and the soup – were delicious; creamy and chocolaty without being too sweet. The texture reminded me of pudding pops – remember those? My kids loved them and I felt like a health-food hero, despite how easy this recipe turned out to be. I’ve since tried a few others like the orange coconut creamsicles with yogurt, honey, coconut and fresh squeezed orange juice – simple yet fabulous. My friend Elisabeth – also a purist when it comes to all things homemade – made the creamy cashew pops with a chocolate shell. This recipe looks fantastic but definitely labor intensive – something I’d choose to eat rather than make. Her hard work paid off as all three of her kids went crazy for them; even the pickiest one.

All recipes in this book are dairy-free and gluten-free, where fruit and healthy ingredients rule the day. Some of the granitas and slushies can even be made “adult friendly” like the watermelon lime ice, which might taste great with a splash of tequila.

The best thing about the cookbook is its visual appeal. A gorgeous photo of the end product and/or the ingredients accompanies each recipe. It’s a feast for the eyes and makes you want to pore over every page, dreaming of the day you’ll be picking fresh blueberries and turning them into a roasted blueberry shake. The cookbook’s author is also the photographer; impressive especially knowing she has two young boys.

I later learned that this isn’t Christine Chitnis’ first book. She also co-authored Little Bites, 100 Healthy, Kid-Friendly Snacks, an equally beautiful and useful cookbook filled with healthy recipes arranged seasonally (my sister-in-law sheepishly told me she made most of them — that’s enough of a testimonial for me).

I’m officially convinced that frozen treats are worth the effort. There are so many recipes in this beautiful cookbook I want to try, from the blackberry tarragon sorbet, to the pumpkin frozen yogurt with candied pecans. Even if I never make another recipe, this is one of those books I’ll occasionally pull off the shelf and treasure … a true treat on its own.

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