Sweet Cherry Nice Cream

My little family and I returned from a trip to Michigan a few weeks ago and the boys developed colds just a few days later.  I know from growing up in The Mitten that the weather patterns can be unpredictable, but I truly didn’t expect snow in the middle of May.  🙂

Nolan, like many little ones, I assume, is not one for much eating when he isn’t feeling well, especially if he’s complaining of a sore throat.  I didn’t have to think too long about a special treat that I knew would cheer him up and provide him essential nutrients:  nice cream!

My nice cream formula is easy to make if you have some frozen bananas on hand, which I typically always do.  In a recent Bountiful Basket, we ordered thirty-eight pounds of bananas, most of which we peeled, chunked, and froze.  I’m ready to whip up nice cream at a moment’s notice!

I decided to make this batch using cherries, for a few reasons.  First of all, cherries are in season now.  I wish I could have brought some back from Michigan—the United States capital of cherries, if you didn’t already know—but my family spoiled my boys with nearly more gifts than I could transport back to Arizona, so I bought some here instead.  🙂  Secondly, cherries are loaded with antioxidants and known to aid with sleep, which the boys tend to get less of when they aren’t feeling well.  This nice cream was bound to be a win-win before the fruit hit the blender.  Lastly, I missed cherries!  Haven’t done much with them since my first-ever pie from scratch.  We were overdue for more cherry deliciousness.

I topped Nolan’s nice cream with vegan whipped cream—made from coconut milk—but you could opt out to save on the sugar.  The splurge—which also included a melted dark chocolate bar drizzle and mini-chocolate chips—was totally worth it to see my sick babe smile.

FORMULA BASE:  NICE CREAM

Serves 3-4

  • 2 frozen bananas (or fresh bananas and ice)
  • ¾-1 cup specialty ingredients –> I’m using 1 cup of pitted sweet cherries.
  • ¼-½ tsp extract of choice (optional, and amount depends on flavor intensity) –> I’m using ¼ tsp almond.
  • Pitted medjool dates as needed for sweetness –> I’m not using any.
  • Juice or plant milk until desired consistency (start with just a splash) –> I’m using a touch of almond.
  • ¼ cup extras for mixing in by hand (optional) – think nuts, dried fruit, chocolate chips, etc. –> I’m topping my nice cream with mini-semi-sweet chocolate chips (vegan).

If you plan to make whipped cream to accompany your nice cream, place a mixing bowl in the fridge to chill while you prepare the other components.  Start by pitting your cherries.  This device saves some time, but your hands will do just fine.

cherry pitter

Combine all ingredients (except the extras) in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Scoop the mixture into a bowl and fold in any extras you are using by hand. Cover and place in the freezer while you prepare your toppings (if any).

Whipped coconut cream:

  • 1 can coconut cream or full fat coconut milk
  • Powdered sweetener to taste (start with ¼ cup) –> I’m using a heaping ¼ cup of powdered turbinado. You can easily make powdered sugar out of higher quality vegan sugars by using the dry blade on your Vitamix or other high powered blender.  (Remember, white, refined sugar lacks nutrients and flavor and tumbles with bone char to achieve its color.  Definitely not vegan.)
  • ¼-½ tsp extract (depending on flavor intensity) (optional) –> I’m using ½ tsp vanilla.
  • 1 pinch-¼ tsp spices (optional) –> I’m not using any.

Chill your can of coconut cream/milk in the fridge overnight. After your nice cream is tucked away in the freezer, prepare your powdered sugar and remove your chilled mixing bowl from the fridge.

Empty the can into the bowl and whip with a hand or stand mixer until smooth and creamy, about a minute. Add sweetener (and extract and spices, if using) and continue whipping until smooth and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. This whipped cream will not quite achieve the height and stiffness of dairy whipped cream, but it will become a bit fluffy nonetheless. Store any extras in the fridge.

Assemble your nice cream sundae and absolutely, enjoy!

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Blackberry Nice Cream

Our last Bountiful Basket included sixteen clamshells of delicious blackberries. We ate some of them fresh and froze the majority to use in smoothies. Since they are already frozen, I figured they would do well in a quick batch of nice cream.

If you remember my pistachio nice cream, you know that this non-dairy version of easily THE most popular frozen treat is just as satisfying and pretty darn healthy. It’s essentially a thicker version of a smoothie, into which you can add endless crunch factors like chocolate chips, nuts, or pretzels…just like “real” ice cream!

Blackberries not only make nice cream look rich and vibrant, they are extremely nutritious. One serving of blackberries provides approximately one third of your daily recommended fiber, vitamin A, vitamin K, and vitamin C intake. They are the perfect balance of sweet and tart and really compliment salads, smoothies, and desserts.

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Another feature of today’s nice cream rendition is cacao nibs, which I’m using to top my treat. Raw cacao nibs are bits of cacao beans, which are used to make the chocolate that we are used to eating. The raw nibs have all of the health benefits of chocolate without the added sugar, salt, and fat. They are most notably jam-packed with flavonoids, cell-improving antioxidants also found in tea and berries. You’re getting a double dose of antioxidants with this dessert!

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Not ready to let go of holiday sweets? Indulge in a dessert that will help you to bounce back from the holidays madness and reach your fitness goals. 🙂 Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: NICE CREAM

Serves 3-4

  • 2 frozen bananas (or fresh bananas and ice)
  • ¾-1 cup specialty ingredients –> I’m using 1 heaping cup of partially-thawed blackberries.
  • ¼-½ tsp extract of choice (optional, and amount depends on flavor intensity) –> I’m using ¼ tsp almond.
  • Pitted medjool dates as needed for sweetness –> I’m using 2.
  • Juice or plant milk until desired consistency (start with just a splash) –> I’m not using any (the juice from the blackberries is enough to puree my ingredients).
  • ¼ cup extras for mixing in by hand (optional) – think nuts, dried fruit, chocolate chips, etc. –> I’m topping my nice cream with raw cacao nibs and raw chopped almonds.

Combine all ingredients (except the extras) in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Ready to enjoy immediately, or place in the freezer while you prepare any desired sauces or toppings.

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We All Scream for Nice Cream!

So, I thought I was the only vegan/almost-vegan/vegetarian blogger obsessed with making dessert right now, but I have come to realize that with the heat of summer, I am not alone. I follow many plant-based dieters on social media and I see two popular desserts surfacing over and over again: cheesecake and ice cream.

Obviously, these traditional dessert names can be deceiving as there is no cheese in a vegan cheesecake and no cream in vegan ice cream, but you get the idea. Those in the plant-based world are finding healthy, natural, and creative ways to mimic the qualities we have come to love in dairy products. This is not to say that the flavors and the textures are exactly like those of the animal-based variety; they are, however, rich, decadent, just as a satisfying, and most importantly, much healthier.

Have a sweet tooth? Hot? Pregnant? Frustrated with pregnant partner? Bad day at work? Need a special treat for a party or group of kids? Love ice cream, but watching your figure? All of the above? It’s time to make vegan ice cream! I see vegan bloggers typically use two titles to describe their plant-based freezer creations: nice cream or nana ice cream. I’m going with nice cream because I am an English instructor by day and puns are the jam. 🙂

The second mock ice cream title does appeal to me, however, in its description of the ice cream base: bananas. That’s right: our nice cream gets its creamy consistency from frozen bananas. Good news is if you’ve mastered my dessert smoothie formula (this one is very similar), you’re ready to make nice cream! Less liquid + more chunky ingredients topped with chocolate sauce and whipped coconut cream will allow for more of a sundae experience, whereas the smoothie mimics a milkshake.

In order to be ready to make nice cream (or dessert smoothies) any time, I peel and chunk ripe or overripe bananas to keep in the freezer. I would highly recommend having a couple chilling at all times, but this is a great strategy if you have a few bananas that are on their way out and you don’t think you’ll eat them in time. (If I don’t pop overripe bananas in the freezer, I quickly whip them up into a batch of my super food muffins).

DSC_2289The banana is an amazing potassium-loaded, naturally sweet and creamy, and inexpensive fruit that has endless uses. Making a batch of nice cream will not only change the way that you view dessert, but it is so much easier to make that dairy-based ice cream, which often involves a machine and lots of waiting. As of late, when I want dessert, I want it now. 🙂

Today’s rendition features one of my favorite nuts: the pistachio. It’s amazing green color not only represents so much of what I stand for in life (plant-based living and the Michigan State Spartans, to name a couple!), but it signifies that pistachios are loaded with antioxidants. They are also a rich source of fiber, vitamin B6, copper, and manganese. Nuts are among my favorite super foods!

DSC_2288If you’ve got a blender or food processor and some bananas on hand, and you’re comfortable with my dessert smoothie formula, you’re ready to scream for nice cream. Here we go…

FORMULA BASE: NICE CREAM

Serves 3-4

  • 2 frozen bananas (or fresh bananas and ice)
  • ¾-1 cup specialty ingredients –> I’m using ¾ cup unsalted pistachio meats + ¼ tsp cinnamon.
  • ¼-½ tsp extract of choice (optional, and amount depends on flavor intensity) –> I’m using ¼ tsp almond.
  • Pitted medjool dates as needed for sweetness –> I’m using 2.
  • Juice or plant milk until desired consistency (start with just a splash) –> I’m using almond.
  • ¼ cup extras for mixing in by hand (optional) – think nuts, dried fruit, chocolate chips, etc. –> I’m using more unsalted pistachios, finely chopped.

If you plan to make whipped cream to accompany your nice cream, place a mixing bowl in the fridge to chill while you prepare the other components.Combine all ingredients (except the extras) in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Scoop the mixture into a bowl and fold in any extras you are using by hand. Cover and place in the freezer while you prepare your toppings (if any).  Your nice cream base will thicken in the freezer.

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Chocolate sauce*:

  • ½ cup plant milk –> I’m using almond.
  • 3-4 pitted mejool dates (depending on size) –> I’m using 4.
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

*Chocolate not your thing? You could also make caramel or melt nut butter to top your nice cream. 🙂

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Pour into a sauce pan on the stovetop over medium high heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer for about five minutes until sauce has thickened slightly. Cool to a palatable temperature before serving.

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Leftovers? Store in a glass container in the fridge. Heat and add additional plant milk (if necessary) to thin out when using again.

Whipped coconut cream:

  • 1 can coconut cream or full fat coconut milk –> I’m using cream.
  • Powdered sweetener to taste (start with ¼ cup) –> I’m using ¼ + 1/8 cups powdered turbinado sugar.
  • ¼-½ tsp extract (depending on flavor intensity) (optional) –> I’m using ¼ tsp vanilla.
  • 1 pinch-¼ tsp spices (optional) –> I’m using a healthy pinch of cinnamon.

Chill your can of coconut cream/milk in the fridge overnight. After your nice cream is tucked away in the freezer and your sauce is cooling, remove your chilled mixing bowl from the fridge. Empty the can into the bowl and whip with a hand or stand mixer until smooth and creamy, about a minute. Add sweetener (and extract and spices, if using) and continue whipping until smooth and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. This whipped cream will not quite achieve the height and stiffness of dairy whipped cream, but it will become a bit fluffy nonetheless. Store any extras in the fridge.

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Assemble your nice cream sundae and absolutely, enjoy!  Take it from Nolan:  “It’s so good!”

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