According to the International Dairy Foods Association, President Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream Month and the third Sunday of the month as National Ice Cream Day in 1984. “He recognized ice cream as a fun and nutritious food that is enjoyed by the nation’s population. In the proclamation, President Reagan called for all people of the United States to observe these events with ‘appropriate ceremonies and activities’.”
A 2012 survey revealed that vanilla is America’s most popular flavor, followed by chocolate and cookies ’n cream. In truth, though, ice cream flavors are virtually limitless. Specialty flavors can be found in supermarkets, as well as individual ice cream shops and many of them feature seasonal flavors. If you look hard enough, it’s even possible to find grown-up flavors like bourbon butter pecan, blue cheese pear and foie gras or sea urchin.
No one knows who invented ice cream, although Alexander the Great reportedly enjoyed a refreshing snack of snow and ice flavored with honey and nectar. More than a millennium later, Marco Polo brought back from his travels a recipe for a frozen treat similar to modern sherbet. Historians believe that recipe eventually evolved into ice cream during the 16th century. “Cream ice” was served to European royalty, although it wasn’t until much later, when insulated ice houses were invented, that ice cream became widely available to the general public.
Types of Frozen Treats
- Frozen yogurt is yogurt that is frozen using a technique similar to soft serve. While lower in calories and fat than ice cream, not all frozen yogurt is made with live and active cultures the way that standard yogurt is. To make sure that a frozen yogurt contains “yogurt” and a significant amount of live and active cultures, look for the National Yogurt Association (NYA) Live & Active Cultures seal. Without that seal, frozen yogurt does not contain any probiotics.
- Gelato. Italian ice cream that doesn’t have as much air as traditional ice cream, so it has a much denser texture.
- Ice cream. This frozen treat is made from milk or cream, sugar and flavorings. The FDA requires that ice creams with solid additions (nuts, chocolate, fruit, etc.) contain at least 8 percent milk fat, while plain ice creams are required to have at least 10 percent milk fat. “French” ice cream is usually made with a cooked egg custard base.
- Ice milk is made with lower-fat milk, making it less creamy. However, it does contain fewer calories than ice cream.
- Italian ice (also called Granita) is a mix of juice (or other liquid like coffee), water and sugar, usually in a 4:1 ratio of liquid to sugar. The ices are stirred frequently during freezing to give it a flaky texture. These are almost always fat-free, contain minimal additives and are the lowest in calories of all frozen desserts.
- Sherbet has a fruit juice base but often contains some milk, egg whites or gelatin to thicken and enrich it. It’s a creamy version of sorbet (see below).
- Slow-churned (double churned) ice cream is made through low-temperature extrusion, to make light ice cream taste richer, creamier and more like the full-fat variety. Extrusion distributes the milk fat evenly throughout the product for added richness and texture without adding extra calories. By law, “light” ice cream must contain at least 50% less fat or 33% fewer calories than regular full-fat varieties.
- Soft-serve is a soft “ice cream” that contains double the amount of air as standard ice cream, which stretches the ingredients and creates a lighter texture. It’s lower in fat and calories, but it often contains fillers and additives.
- Sorbet, softer in consistency than a sherbet, is usually fruit and sugar that has been frozen. Its texture more “solid” and less flaky than Italian ice.
How healthy are these treats?
While ice cream does contain bone-building calcium, you’re better off getting calcium from other food sources, since ice cream contains about half the calcium as an equal serving of milk, which is lower in fat and calories. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re eating healthy by getting calcium from Haagen-Dazs or Ben and Jerry’s—both of which can pack more fat per serving than a fast food hamburger!
Some ice creams, especially “light” varieties are sweetened with artificial sweeteners instead of sugar. Using an artificial sweetener in place of some or all of the traditional sugar can reduce calories, but these sweeteners aren’t for everyone and may cause stomach upset when eaten in high quantities.
In general, regular (full-fat) ice cream contains about 140 calories and 6 grams of fat per 1/2 cup serving. Besides the fat content, premium brands pack more ice cream into each serving because they contain less air—they are denser and harder to scoop than regular brands—meaning more calories, fat and sugar per serving. Low fat or “light” ice creams weigh in at about half the fat of premium brands but they still contain their fair share of calories, thanks to the extra sugar added to make them more palatable.
Toppings such as chocolate chips, candies and sprinkles send the calorie count even higher and don’t offer any nutritional benefits. Choose vitamin-packed fruit purée (not fruit “syrup”), fresh fruit or nuts, which contain healthy fat, protein and fiber. While chocolate does have some health benefits, most choices like chips and syrup are usually full of fillers with very little actual chocolate. If you want extra chocolate, use a vegetable peeler to shave dark chocolate over the top of your serving.
If animal-based products aren’t part of your diet or you can’t eat dairy, you can choose from a wide variety of non-dairy frozen desserts such as soy, coconut or rice “cream.” These desserts cut the saturated fat because they don’t contain milk or cream, but can derive around 50% of their calories from fat (usually by adding oil to the product for smoothness or “mouth feel”).
So what should you look for when you want to indulge in a creamy dessert but not go overboard? Check the nutrition label and choose a frozen dessert that meets these guidelines per 1/2 cup serving.
- 120 calories or less
- 4 g of total fat or less
- 3 g of saturated fat or less (sorbet, sherbet and low-fat ice cream usually fit the bill)
- 10 mg of cholesterol or less
- 15 g of sugar or less (this is equal to about 3 teaspoons of actual table sugar)
Remember to keep portions small. A pint of ice cream is not a single serving; it’s FOUR servings. If you eat an entire pint, you have to multiply the number of calories, fat grams, etc. listed on the label by four. Stick to portion sizes and always scoop your ice cream into a small bowl, instead of eating it directly from the container to prevent overeating. And use a teaspoon rather than a tablespoon to take smaller bites.
If you want total control over what goes into your ice cream, consider buying your own ice cream maker. Experiment with the recipes that come with the machine, adding your own fresh fruit to create a treat that tastes good and is good for you at the same time.
Ice cream is by no means a health food or a vital component of a healthy diet. But it is a simple pleasure in life most people wouldn’t want to give up. Here are a few frozen dessert recipes to indulge in without blowing up your diet.
Chocolate Banana Frozen Yogurt
Makes 1 quart
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 large ripe bananas, cut into 1-inch rounds
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon dark rum
- 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons 2 percent milk
- 2 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cups nonfat Greek yogurt
- 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
In a nonstick skillet, melt the butter. Add the bananas in a single layer and sprinkle with the brown sugar. Cook over moderate heat, turning once, until caramelized, about 8 minutes. Off the heat, add the rum and swirl the pan to dissolve the sugar.
Place three-quarters of the bananas into a food processor and add 3 tablespoons of the milk. Puree until smooth. Transfer the puree to a small bowl and freeze until chilled, 15 minutes. Chop the remaining bananas and freeze until chilled. Chill the remaining milk and yogurt.
In another bowl, whisk the cocoa with the granulated sugar, salt, vanilla and the remaining 1/2 cup of milk. Whisk in the yogurt until smooth, then the banana puree.
Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions until nearly frozen. Mix in the chopped bananas and chocolate. Place the frozen yogurt into an airtight container, cover and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours.
Watermelon Granita with Cardamom Syrup
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 3 pounds seedless watermelon, rind removed, flesh cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (6 cups)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cardamom seeds
In a saucepan, combine 1/2 cup of the water with 3/4 cup of the sugar and stir over moderate heat until dissolved, 2 minutes.
In a blender, working in batches, puree the watermelon with the sugar syrup and lemon juice until smooth. Pour the mixture into a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and freeze for 30 minutes. Using a fork, stir the granita; continue stirring every 30 minutes, until frozen and fluffy, about 3 hours.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan, combine the remaining 1/4 cup of water and 1/2 cup of sugar with the cardamom seeds and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until the sugar is dissolved, 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Strain the syrup and refrigerate.
Fluff the granita with a fork. Scoop into bowls, drizzle with the cardamom syrup and serve immediately.
Caramelized Pineapple Sundaes with Coconut
- One pineapple—peeled, cored and sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rings
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup sweetened wide shredded coconut strips or regular cut
- 2 1/2 pints fat-free vanilla frozen yogurt
- Mint sprigs, for garnish
Light a grill. Brush the pineapple rings with the vegetable oil. Grill over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until the pineapple is lightly charred and softened, about 8 minutes. Transfer the rings to a work surface and cut into bite-size pieces.
In a medium skillet, toast the coconut over moderate heat until golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.
Scoop the yogurt into sundae glasses or bowls. Top with the grilled pineapple, sprinkle with the coconut, garnish with the mint sprigs and serve right away.
Easy Soft-Serve Ice Cream
- 1 1/2 pounds frozen strawberries, mangoes or blueberries
- 3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Kosher salt
In a food processor, pulse the fruit with the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla and a generous pinch of salt until the fruit is finely chopped.
Puree until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes; scrape down the side of the bowl as needed. Serve soft or transfer to a metal baking pan, cover and freeze until just firm.
MAKE AHEAD: The soft-serve can be frozen for up to 3 days. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.
Sherbet Fruit Pops
- 10 5-ounce paper cups
- 3 peeled and chopped kiwi fruit
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 quart raspberry or tangerine sherbet
- 2 tablespoons orange juice
- 10 flat wooden craft sticks
Arrange cups on a baking pan.
In a small bowl combine kiwi fruit and sugar. Divide chopped kiwi fruit among the paper cups.
In a large bowl using an electric mixer on low-speed beat together sherbet and orange juice until combined. Spoon sherbet mixture over kiwi fruit filling cups.
Cover each cup with a square of foil. Use table knife to make small hole in center of each foil square. Slide wooden craft stick through each hole and into fruit mixture in the bottom of the cup.
Freeze at least 6 hours or overnight. To serve remove foil; carefully tear away cups. Serve immediately. Makes 10 pops
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There was a time when strawberries were a rare treat – just the wild ones you occasionally came across as you hiked in the woods or the ones sold in the supermarket only during the month of June. Not any more!
Strawberries originally came from the Alpine regions where they have been growing wildly for thousands of years. They have a history that goes back over 2,200 years. The strawberry, a member of the rose family, is unique in that it is the only fruit with seeds on the outside rather than the inside.
There are many explanations about how strawberries got their name. Some believe that the name came from the practice of placing straw around the growing plants for protection and others believe the name originated over 1000 years ago because of the runners which spread outward from the plant. The name may have been derived from the Anglo-Saxon verb to strew (spread) and the fruit came to be known as streabergen, straberry, streberie, straibery, straubery and finally, “STRAWBERRY’ to the English.
Most likely due to the fact that their shape vaguely recalls that of a heart, strawberries have always been considered a symbol of love. According to an ancient legend, strawberries were created out of the tragic love the goddess Venus had for Adonis. There is another famous story about strawberries that occurred during the time of Louis XIV, King of France. At that time, the ladies of the court used strawberries as a symbol of their affection. If a woman wanted to let a man know that she was interested in him, all she had to do was eat strawberries in his presence.
Perhaps this is the reason the French court was the first to try to cultivate strawberries. Until the middle of the XVII century, in fact, strawberries grew exclusively in the wild. The botanists of the Sun King variety were the first to cultivate them. They transplanted wild plants into the royal garden and then crossed the European varieties with South American varieties. The new strawberries were larger, less delicate and easier to grow.
Strawberries were discovered in Virginia by the first Europeans when their ships landed there in 1588. Early settlers in Massachusetts enjoyed eating strawberries grown by local Native Americans who cultivated strawberries as early as 1643. Strawberries have been grown in California since the early 1900’s. Today, over 25,000 acres of strawberries are planted each year in California and the state produces over 80% of the strawberries grown in the United States. On average, each acre produces about 21 tons of strawberries and the state produces one billion pounds of strawberries a year.
Strawberry varieties are one of three types: the June-bearing, the everbearing or the day-neutral. The difference among the types is the time during the growing season that the plants produce fruit. The June-bearing varieties flourish in the spring and produce one crop. Everbearing plants yield fruit several times, usually at the beginning and the end of the growing season. The day-neutral varieties produce an ongoing crop throughout the summer months as long as the weather is not too hot.
Packed with vitamins, fiber and high levels of antioxidants known as polyphenols, strawberries are a sodium-free, fat-free, cholesterol-free, low-calorie food. They are among the top 20 fruits in antioxidant capacity and are a good source of manganese and potassium. Just one serving — about eight strawberries — provides more vitamin C than an orange.
Purchasing and Storing Strawberries
The berries should be a shiny scarlet and blemish free. If the tips are paler, or green, the berries are probably not ripe and could be tasteless. The berries should also look firm. If their color is dull, or if they look dry or soft, they may well be old.
If you’re buying a plastic container of strawberries turn it over to check the berries underneath, as well, because they easily become moldy. As a final check, sniff the strawberries: a strong strawberry aroma should greet you. If it does not, the chances are that the strawberries won’t have much taste.
When you get them home store, them in the refrigerator; they’ll keep a couple of days. Do not wash them until you are ready to use them. Store fresh strawberries in a colander in the refrigerator. This allows the cold air to circulate around them. Do not cover them.
Remove caps (stems/leaves) from strawberries only after washing because the caps keep the water from breaking down the texture and flavor inside the strawberries.
Prepare strawberries for serving by rinsing under a gentle spray of cool water; pat dry with a paper towel.
Remove the green caps (stems) with a light twisting motion or with the point of a paring knife. It’s as easy as a twist of the wrist.
You can also purchase a strawberry de-stemmer/huller at your local kitchen store or online (see photo).
When you have more strawberries than you can eat or when strawberries can be obtained at a reasonable cost, freeze them to eat later or for use in pies and other baked goods.
Fresh Strawberry Measurements:
1 tray or flat of strawberries = 12 baskets or pints.
1 small basket = 1 pint strawberries = 12 large strawberries = 24 medium strawberries = 36 small strawberries.
1 pint = 2 to 2.5 cups sliced (1/4-inch thick slices) strawberries.
1 pint = 1.25 to 1.5 cups pureed (mashed) strawberries.
20-ounce bag frozen whole strawberries = 4 cups whole strawberries = 2.5 cup sliced strawberries = 2.25 cups pureed (mashed) strawberries.
10-ounce package frozen sliced sweetened strawberries = 1.25 cups frozen strawberries in syrup.
Strawberries grew wild in Italy as long ago as 234 B.C. and in Ancient Rome, these red fruits were considered valuable. They believed that the berries alleviated symptoms of melancholy, fainting, all inflammations, fevers, throat infections, kidney stones, halitosis, attacks of gout and diseases of the blood, liver and spleen.
In Italy one of the most famous places for strawberries is Lago di Nemi, a crater lake in the Alban Hills overlooking Rome; the crater walls capture the warmth of the sun and because the crater rim is unbroken the basin is shielded from cool winds. Italians celebrate the season with a festival in June and Nemi’s strawberries do not last long, since they are scooped up by the Romans.
In Italy, fresh strawberries are often served as dessert, not usually with cream but more often sprinkled with sugar, or splashed with lemon juice or sometimes dipped in wine. While we think of strawberries as a sweet course, they can be turned into a savory dish by including them in salads made with an extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing.
The traditional Italian method for serving strawberries is with wine: fragole al vino. Hull the strawberries, quarter them lengthwise, sprinkle them with wine, dust them with a little sugar and put them in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. The wine of choice for this recipe is usually a red Chianti or an Asti or Prosecco sparkling wine.
Strawberry Goat Cheese Bruschetta
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
- 12 slices Italian bread
- Olive oil for brushing on bread
- 1 pound strawberries, washed and diced
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves, plus more for serving
- 1 cup goat cheese, room temperature
- salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Heat vinegar in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Simmer until reduced by about half, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
Prepare an indoor or outdoor grill for high heat. Place bread slices on a foil-lined baking sheet and brush both sides with olive oil.
Combine strawberries and basil in a small bowl and set aside.
Grill bread on the preheated grill until browned, about 3 minutes per side.
Spread goat cheese on toasted bread. Add black pepper, salt,and reduced vinegar to the strawberry mixture. Spoon over the goat cheese topped bruschetta. Garnish with additional basil.
Strawberry Italian Ice
- 3/4 cup thawed unsweetened apple juice concentrate
- 1 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 pints fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
- Fresh mint
In a blender, combine the apple juice concentrate, lemon juice and strawberries; cover and process until blended. Pour into an ungreased 8-inch square dish. Cover and freeze for 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until partially set.
Spoon into a large bowl; beat on medium speed for 1-1/2 minutes.
Return to dish; freeze for 2-3 hours or until firm.
Remove from the freezer 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with mint if desired.
- 1 pint (12 oz) strawberries, rinsed, hulled and halved
- 2 tablespoons)granulated sugar
- 15 oz. skim-milk ricotta cheese
- 4 ounces mascarpone cream cheese
- 1 cup powdered (confectioners’) sugar, plus extra for garnish
- 1/4 cup chocolate mini chips
- 1/4 teaspoons almond extract
- 1 box (8) cannoli shells
- Garnish: sliced strawberries
At least 1 day before serving; Line a colander and a medium-size strainer with a sturdy paper towel; set each in a bowl.
Pulse strawberries and granulated sugar in food processor until coarsely chopped. Scrape into colander, top with a paper towel and refrigerate overnight to drain well (this is important).
Put ricotta, cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar in processor; pulse until smooth. Transfer to strainer, cover with a paper towel and refrigerate overnight.
Just before serving: Fold drained berries, mini chocolate chips and almond extract into ricotta mixture. Spoon into a gallon-size ziptop bag. Cut 1⁄2 inch off a corner; pipe filling into cannoli shells and garnish with powdered sugar and extra sliced strawberries..
Italian Strawberry Shortcakes
For the Shortcakes
- 2 cups cake flour, plus more for dusting board or counter
- 1 cup white whole-wheat flour, or whole-wheat pastry flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) reduced-fat cream cheese, (Neufchâtel)
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 3 tablespoons nonfat buttermilk
For the Berry Mixture:
- 4 cups fresh strawberries
- 1/4 cup sugar, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 2 sprigs fresh mint
For the Ricotta Cream:
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
For the Shortcakes
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Whisk cake flour, whole-wheat flour, sugar and baking powder in a large bowl. Cut in butter using two knives or a pastry cutter until the pieces are about the size of peas. Cut in cream cheese until it’s the size of peas. Drizzle oil over the mixture; stir with a fork until just combined (the mixture will be crumbly). Make a well in the center and add egg and buttermilk. Gradually stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients with a fork until the mixture is evenly moist. Knead the mixture in the bowl two or three times until it holds together.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Dust with flour and roll into an 8-by-10-inch rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. Cut the edges square using a butter knife. Cut the dough into 12 equal shortcakes. Transfer to a baking sheet.
Bake the shortcakes until puffed and lightly golden, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly.
For the Ricotta Cream
Combine the ricotta cheese, sour cream, honey and lemon juice in a small bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve shortcakes.
For the Berries
While the shortcakes bake, wash and hull (remove the stem) from the strawberries. Slice them lengthwise. Remove the mint leaves from their stem and thinly slice. Add the sugar, balsamic vinegar and mint to the strawberries. Let the mixture stand for at least 20 minutes and up to 2 hours.
To serve: split the shortcakes horizontally. Spoon the berries and juice onto the bottoms, top with the ricotta mixture and replace the shortcake tops. Garnish with more strawberries.
Italian Strawberry Tart
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour or Eagle Brand Ultra Grain flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons whole milk
- 1 pint strawberries, hulled and cut in half
- powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9 inch springform pan.
Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a bowl.
In a separate bowl, beat the butter and the sugar. Add the eggs and milk. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture and stir by hand until just moistened. Do not overmix.
Spread the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Press strawberry halves deeply into the dough in a circular pattern of 2 or 3 rings.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool and dust with powdered sugar.
- Day five – Ashley (mexicoblog2013.wordpress.com)
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