I recently decided to try and make homemade ice cream. I also decided to buy an ice cream making-appliance. I didn’t want an elaborate machine or one that was too large. America’s Test Kitchen recommended the Cuisinart Ice-21, so I went with that recommendation. Turns out the appliance was very easy to use and made the ice cream exactly as described. I also watched a YouTube video prior to making the ice cream just to be sure of what I was doing.
I followed a recipe for making a sugar free version but I found that my first batch became very hard in the freezer. I did some research and the Cuisinart manual said that homemade ice cream does become quite hard in the freezer and needs to be left on the counter for 20-30 minutes before serving. I also learned that you can add some special ingredients to help the ice cream retain its softness, such as more heavy cream than milk, guar gum powder, fiber syrup, and vodka. The second batch was very successful with the addition of the fiber syrup and guar gum.
Homemade Butter Pecan Ice Cream
Makes about 1 ½ quarts
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup pecans
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup powdered monk fruit sweetener or regular sugar
¼ teaspoon guar gum
¼ cup clear fiber syrup
2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Steps prior to making the recipe:
- The freezer bowl must be completely frozen before beginning the process.. Before freezing, wash and dry the bowl. The length of time needed to reach the frozen state depends on how cold the freezer is. It is recommended that the freezer bowl be placed in the back of the freezer where it is coldest. Be sure to place the freezer bowl on a flat surface in its upright position for even freezing. Generally, freezing time is 24 hours. Shake the bowl to determine whether it is completely frozen. If you do not hear the liquid within the bowl moving, the cooling liquid is sufficiently frozen. Use the bowl immediately after removing from the freezer. It will begin to quickly defrost once it has been removed from the freezer. Ingredients such as chips and nuts should be added during the last 5 minutes before the recipe is complete. Once the ice cream has begun to thicken, add the ingredients through the ingredient spout at the top
- In a mixing bowl or a large measuring cup, combine the guar gum, sugar, and salt. Pour in the milk, cream. Fiber syrup and vanilla. Using a hand mixer on low speed thoroughly combine the ingredients. Cover the bowl and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight. Overnight is best.
- Melt the butter in a medium skillet. Add the pecans. Cook over medium-low heat until the pecans are lightly toasted, stirring frequently, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the pan from the heat to cool to room temperature. With a spatula spread the pecans on a sheet of foil and set aside.
Turn the ice cream maker on; pour the mixture into the frozen freezer bowl through the spout at the top and let mix until thickened, about 20 minutes. Five minutes before mixing is completed, add the reserved pecans and let mix in completely. The ice cream will have a soft, creamy texture. Transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and place in the freezer for about 2 hours. Remove from freezer about 15 minutes before serving.
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
Note to my readers: I added a print friendly icon to the end of the share button row on the right. It follows the email icon but before the More box. When you click on the print friendly icon, a new window will open and you should be able to print the new page. Some of my readers said they had difficulty printing from my website with the regular print button on the left, so this is another option.
- 15 Dairy-Free Ice Creams to Enjoy This Summer (onegreenplanet.org)
- Frozen fruity goodness (metafilter.com)
- 7 Ways to Make Ice Cream Without Dairy (onegreenplanet.org)
- Double Chocolate Protein Frozen Yogurt (freshfitnhealthy.com)
For most Italians, the sea is never very far away. Though a relatively small country, Italy has 5000 miles of coastline—so it’s easy to understand why fish and “frutti di mare” (literally “the fruits of the sea”) have always had a special importance in Italian daily life and in regional culinary traditions. The love Italians have for fish begins early in life.
Some of the most succulent seafood dishes in the world can be found in Italy. Popular varieties of fish include tuna, anchovies, sardines, swordfish, cod, salmon, shrimp, crab, squid, clams and mussels. Such fish and shellfish are traditionally added to stews, pasta dishes and risotto. Cioppino was developed in San Francisco by Italian-American fishermen, who prepared what they had while on their fishing boats, so they must have used local fish and seasoning. Zuppa di Pesce or Brodetto are the Italian names for fish stews/soups from various Italian regions.
The interesting history behind Italian fish stews stretches back at least five hundred years, as it is believed that fish stew was first made in Livorno around the year 1500. As with many other Italian traditional recipes, there are various legends surrounding its creation, but two of these stories stand out from the rest.
The first legend tells of a fisherman from Livorno who lost his life at sea in a shipwreck. His children were so hungry with no one to provide for them after his death that they turned to all their neighbours for food. Everyone gave them different types of fish, with which their mother made a huge soup, adding tomatoes, garlic, oil and slices of bread – thus creating the first cacciucco (fish stew). The second is that a lighthouse keeper created the stew. The Florentine Republic had prohibited the use of olive oil which he always used to fry his fish and, so rather than having his favorite “fritto”, he made a fish soup instead. The most realistic explanation is that after having sold what they fished, fishermen’s families had to cook with whatever had remained unsold, thus starting the tradition of mixing all kinds of fish together. The traditional recipe calls for thirteen different kinds of fish as ingredients, but nowadays, most people use between six and eight varieties.
Entertaining at Home
I have always enjoyed entertaining and inviting friends and family over for a dinner party or informal pizza get-togethers. I learned quickly that it is a good idea to plan menu items that allow for advanced preparation, so that I could spend time with my guests instead of cooking in the kitchen. The menu below is an example of how most of the preparation for the menu items can be done ahead of time. The appetizer can be breaded ahead of time and placed in the baking dishes until close to serving time. Just before your guests arrive, you can drizzle the vegetables with oil and bake. Actually, this appetizer tastes good at room temperature. The lemon dip can be prepared well in advance. I like to offer an appetizer like this one because it allows guests to eat and talk for a while before the main course. The cook can do the same because the second course preparations were done ahead.
Much of the second course will have been completed by the time you are ready to serve. The garlic paste can be prepared ahead of time and smeared on the bread just before you put it in the oven. You can put the garlic bread in the oven (the oven will be hot and is the same temperature you used for the vegetables) while you cook the fish in the broth and dress the salad. Serve the stew in a soup terrine, if you have one. Just before placing the dishes on the table, I like to move the parfaits from the freezer to the refrigerator. Put the topping and chocolate on when you are ready to serve them. You will have enjoyed this dinner as much as your guests.
Dinner Party Menu For Four
- Oven Fried “Fritto Misto”
- Italian Fisherman’s Stew
- Ok For You Garlic Bread
- Salad of Baby Lettuces with Italian Dressing
- Almond Mocha Parfait
Oven Fried “Fritto Misto”
A favorite in Italy, fritto misto (mixed fry) is an assortment of bite-size pieces of vegetables or other foods that are dipped in batter, deep-fried and served as an appetizer. My version keeps it healthy by using the “oven fry” method.
2 cups vegetables (your pick)
- cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets
- green beans, halved
- fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
- zucchini, cut into ¼ “ slices
- frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted
- asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into thirds
- 3 eggs, beaten or 3/4 cup egg substitute
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
- Olive oil
- Lemon Mayonnaise Sauce, recipe below
Cut vegetables, rinse them off and drain on paper towels.
Spray 2 large 13×9 inch glass baking dishes with olive oil cooking spray
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Place the eggs in a shallow dish.
In a deep wide bowl place the flour mixed with the cheese and spices.
Dip each piece of vegetable first into the egg, and then into the flour mixture, making sure they are coated evenly on all sides.
Put the vegetables in the prepared baking dishes and drizzle the tops lightly with olive oil.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until browned, turning them over with a fork halfway through the cooking time. Serve with the lemon mayonnaise sauce.
Lemon Mayonnaise Sauce
- 1 cup low-fat olive oil mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from about ½ lemon)
Whisk together and chill in a serving bowl. Garnish top with chopped parsley.
Italian Fisherman’s Stew
Halibut is a favorite fish in this dish, but you can use cod, snapper or grouper. You can substitute a cooked lobster or 1 cup of cooked crab meat or squid for any of the fish in the recipe.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 1 celery rib, chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 (28-32 ounce) container Italian chopped tomatoes
- 1 finely grated rind and juice of orange
- 1 tablespoon sugar or honey
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 cups dry red wine
- 2 cups bottled clam broth
- 4 fresh thyme sprigs
- 1 teaspoon salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup chopped roasted red peppers
- 1 pounds firm white fish fillets, cut into 2” inch pieces
- 1 dozen clams or mussels
- 1 pound sea scallops, cut into halves
- 1 pound shrimp, peeled
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
- Chopped parsley
Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high. Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Sauté 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, orange rind and juice, sugar, chile flakes, wine, clam broth, thyme, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, 30 minutes. Uncover and simmer over medium heat until sauce thickens, about 10 minutes.
The broth can be prepared several hours ahead. Cover and let sit on the stove until close to dinner time. You can also prepare the broth a day ahead . Cool and refrigerate. Bring the broth to a boil when you are ready to complete the dish and then add the fish as indicated in the recipe.
Add roasted red peppers and stir in the fish, scallops and shrimp and simmer for about 5 minutes. Next add clams, pushing them down into the soup a little. Cover the pot and simmer for another 3 to 4 minutes, or until the clams are steamed open and cooked through.
Discard any clams that do not open. Remove from heat and stir in chopped basil.
Pasta bowls work well for serving this dish; garnish with a little chopped parsley. It’s best to have a side plate for each diner to hold empty shells.
Ok For You Garlic Bread
- 8 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 Italian bread baguette, cut in half lengthwise
Preheat oven to 450°F.
Place garlic in a small saucepan with enough cold water to cover and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook 3 minutes and drain.
Mash the cooked garlic, oil and salt in a small bowl with the back of a spoon until a smooth paste forms. Spread the mixture over the cut surfaces of the bread.
Place the bread on a baking sheet and bake until the bread begins to brown around the edges, 4 to 6 minutes. Slice and serve.
Salad of baby lettuces and sliced black olives with Italian dressing
Almond Mocha Parfait
- 3 cups low-fat vanilla ice cream or frozen low-fat yogurt, softened
- 2 teaspoons instant espresso granules
- 8 teaspoons Amaretto
- 1/2 cup chocolate wafer cookie crumbs (8 cookies)
- 4 tablespoons reduced-calorie frozen whipped topping
- Grated chocolate
Combine ice cream and espresso granules; stir well.
Spoon 1/4 cup ice cream mixture into each of 4 (8-ounce) parfait glasses or pretty stemware.
Top mixture with 1 teaspoon amaretto and 1 tablespoon cookie crumbs.
Repeat layers, ending with ice cream mixture; freeze 1 hour.
Top each parfait with 1 tablespoon whipped topping and grated chocolate.
Serve immediately. Serves 4.
- Daring to Try Something New! (plotmamas.wordpress.com)
- My big sister Dina’s a much better cook than me – here’s her amazing fish stew recipe (mirror.co.uk)