Cheddar Cauliflower Mac & Cheese (Vegan!)

I feel like Kraft Mac & Cheese defines every millennial’s childhood. Who doesn’t remember throwing down their Jansport backpack, grabbing their Skip-It and working up an appetite until mom served you a pile of that gooey mac & cheese for dinner.

Vegan Mac & Cheese.jpgThe truth is my mom almost exclusively served us healthy, homemade, unprocessed food, to the point where my sister and I went crazy any chance we could get our hands on some of that classic American stuff with its high fructose corn syrup topped with trans fat that kids find irresistible. Our friends’ moms always knew when we were around, with the fill-line on the candy jar noticeably waning and all the marshmallows missing from the Lucky Charms box. We had to get our fix before returning home where our mom who, having grown up in Spain, thought kids should be thrilled with a plate of sauteed zucchini and eggplant for dinner.

Orange Cheddar Cauliflower.jpgBut every blue moon, on a special occasion like a sleepover or a birthday party, my mom would blow us all away and make us Kraft Mac & Cheese (with the requisite side of cucumber tomato salad to maintain the Mediterranean flare, of course). I don’t know if it’s because the circumstances were so rare or because she really is just that good of a cook, but her Mac & Cheese always came out better than anyone else’s I’ve ever had. My friend Gina used to beg my mom to show her mom how to “make it right,” to which my mom would laugh and say she just followed the directions on the box.  Still to this day, Gina talks about my mom’s legendary Mac & Cheese.

Mom serving us Mac & Cheese for our formal dress-up dinner, complete with real wine glasses... so fancy! (Friend Sicily, left; sister Catherine, middle; me, right).

Mom serving us Mac & Cheese for our formal dress-up dinner, complete with real wine glasses… so fancy! (sister Catherine, middle; me, right).

Several years later, enjoying carrot cigarettes and bell pepper lipstick at our Mac & Cheese garden party.

Enjoying carrot cigarettes and bell pepper lipstick at our Mac & Cheese garden party.

Now that I’m all grown up and practicing as a registered dietitian, I’m grateful for all those home-cooked, unprocessed meals I grew up with even if I was jealous of my friends’ cool Lunchables at the time. And now I get to try to share that with my patients so that their kids can also grow up with wholesome foods that will help them grow into healthy adults.

This recipe was inspired by a pediatric obesity group I’m currently running at our clinic, in which the moms requested help with their 3-year-old kids who refused to touch vegetables of any kind. I asked what they do like to eat and, of course, Mac & Cheese was at the top of the list. So I set out to create a healthy, veggie-rich version of this kid classic, resulting in what I like to call “Sneaky Mac.” I prepared it with the moms in the pediatric obesity group the following week (without the garlicky breadcrumbs on top) and every single one of those picky kids ate it all up, unsuspecting that they were getting a whole sneaky serving of vegetables. The end result was a creamy, gooey, vegan Mac & Cheese that gets it color not from artificial food dyes or chemicals, but rather from the Cheddar Cauliflower!

Orange Cheddar Cauliflower.jpgCheddar cauliflower is basically an orange cauliflower that gets its color from a mutation that allows it to hold onto extra beta carotene, a form of Vitamin A. It was discovered in Canada in the 1970’s but it wasn’t until recently that I started to spot it in grocery stores. Like regular cauliflower, cheddar cauliflower is packed with fiber and Vitamin C, and is a good source of calcium, folate, selenium and potassium. It is delicious prepared any way that you would prepare white cauliflower.Orange Cheddar Cauliflower.jpgIf you can’t find orange cauliflower you could totally prepare this recipe with white cauliflower and it would just have the look of a white cheddar mac & cheese. But make sure you don’t ommit the other ingredients. The macadamia nuts give it a little bit of healthy fats and flavor for that creamy mouthfeel, and the nutritional yeast — every vegan’s best friend — imparts a cheesy taste to cheeseless foods (as well as providing B vitamins).

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So throw on your dress-up clothes, light up your carrot cigarette, set out the formal china, and enjoy this guiltless, gooey, all natural, diary-free mac & cheese.

Cheddar Cauliflower Mac & Cheese (Vegan!)

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 20 active, 30 cook
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

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  • 1 pound macaroni noodles (can use whole wheat or whatever kind you like)
  • 2 shallots (or 1 onion), chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 orange cauliflower (or substitute white), florets only
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 cup unsalted macadamia nuts (if using salted, decrease salt to 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Cook macaroni noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet with a lid over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and sauté for 7 minutes until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the cauliflower florets, vegetable stock, salt, and pepper. Cover and simmer on low for 20 minutes.

Place contents of skillet into a blender and add the macadamia nuts, nutritional yeast, and lemon juice. Blend until you have a very smooth and creamy sauce, the consistency of cake batter. You can thin with more vegetable stock if needed.

Stir the sauce into the cooked macaroni and place in an oven-proof pan or skillet. Top with the bread crumbs mixed with 1 clove of crushed garlic, a pinch of salt, the remaining teaspoon of olive oil, and the parsley and sage. Place the pan under the broiler for 5-10 minutes or until the bread crumbs are golden brown and the macaroni and cheese is heated through.

 

Romanesco Two Ways: Pickles and Slaw

MyBerkeleyBowl_Romanesco.jpgLast week I got to do the equivalent of hanging out back stage at a Rolling Stones concert — I got to go to a “managers’ breakfast” with the rock stars of Berkeley Bowl. Diane and Glenn Yasuda opened up Berkeley Bowl in the 1970’s and have built a dedicated team of produce buyers and managers that all gather for breakfast once a month. One of the highlights for me was when one of the managers and photographer extraordinaire, Javier, showed us some of the close-ups he took of Berkeley Bowl produce and we all played “name that exotic vegetable.” Even after blogging about exotic produce for months, the produce buyers Glenn and Nick were hard to beat. It was also fun chatting with Diane, a fellow dietitian and foodie.MyBerkeleyBowl_Romanesco.jpg

I knew this was a family business, but what struck me is how much their staff is an extension of this family, sticking together throughout the years. Some of them started hanging out at the store as kids and twenty years later are still working there. I think that is a testament to the heart and soul behind this iconic establishment.MyBerkeleyBowl_Pickled Romanesco.jpg

After breakfast we all walked over to Berkeley Bowl and parted ways to get to work. As I ran around the store looking for inspiration for my next recipe, it felt different. This place that I’ve been shopping at for fourteen years and blogging about for months felt a little more like home now that I knew some of the faces and stories of the people making it possible.

Maybe that was what made me finally pick up the romanesco. Like Berkeley Bowl as a whole, romanesco is immediately impressive to anyone who walks in off the street. But when you look a bit closer and understand the intricacies behind what you’re looking at, it becomes even more impressive. Aside from its electrifying chartreuse color that draws curious shoppers like a moth to a flame, the close-up is what is truly jaw-dropping about this vegetable.MyBerkeleyBowl_Romanesco.jpg

Remember “fractals” from geometry? No? Fractals are infinitely complex patterns that are self-similar across different scales, formed from chaotic equations — in other words, beautiful natural patterns that break into smaller sections that are similar to the original. Well, romanesco is a perfect, natural example of a fractal. In fact, if you want to get really nerdy, it’s actually an approximation of the golden spiral, in which every quarter turn is farther from the origin by a factor of phi. It’s as if God let his nerdy mad scientist friend, Marv, take a stab at improving the cauliflower. As the Fractal Foundation nicely puts it, fractals are SMART: Science, Math, and Art! What could be better?MyBerkeleyBowl_Romanesco Slaw.jpg

With a similar taste and texture to it’s relative, the cauliflower, romanesco is delicious prepared in any method that compliments cauliflower: roasting whole, cutting into crunchy florets for crudités, steaming for a quick and healthy side, or sautéing to throw on pasta or with stir-fry. This vegetable is just too much fun to look at and to eat, so I decided to prepare it two ways for my blog.MyBerkeleyBowl_Romanesco Slaw.jpg

As someone who loves to snack on pickles as a tasty and light after-work snack, I decided to throw some romanesco florettes into a jar for some quick pickles and boy oh boy, were they crunchy and delicious. I also wanted to keep one raw to preserve its bright green color and crunch, so I combined it with purple cabbage in a super-healthy slaw that is as chromatically attractive as it is delicious.MyBerkeleyBowl_Romanesco Slaw.jpg

Whatever preparation method you choose, don’t forget to take a minute to stare at the intricate spirals and marvel at the exquisite beauty contained in our universe. And then maybe bust out your old AP calculus graphing calculator and calculate the logarithm of your fractal veggie. Or not…

Pickled Romanesco

  • Servings: one 24-oz jar
  • Time: 5 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 2 cups waterMyBerkeleyBowl_Pickled Romanesco.jpg
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seed
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 inch nub of fresh ginger, chopped
  • 1 red chili, sliced
  • 2 sprigs of fresh dill
  • 1 romanesco, cut into florets

Heat water, vinegar, salt and sugar in a small saucepan until just simmering and the salt and sugar are dissolved. Meanwhile, place all remaining ingredients in a 24-oz jar with a lid. Pour the hot vinegar solution over the top. Let cool before covering with a lid and storing in the refrigerator. Pickles will be ready to eat after a couple hours but will be more flavorful if you let them sit at least a day or two. 

 

Romanesco Slaw with Apples and Walnuts

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 15 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
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  • 3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/2 head of purple cabbage, shaved
  • 3 green onions, white and green parts sliced
  • 1 romanesco
  • 1 green apple, seeded and sliced thinly
  • 2/3 cup chopped walnuts

Combine the first four ingredients to make a dressing.  Pour over the shaved cabbage and green onions in a large salad bowl and allow to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

When ready to serve, prepare the romanesco by separating into florets. Set aside the smallest, bite-sized florets, and chop the larger florets into 1/2-inch pieces. Add the chopped florets and apple slices to the cabbage slaw and mix well. Top with the walnuts and decorate with the small romanesco florets before serving.

Roasted Leeks with Blood Oranges

MyBerkeleyBowl_Roasted Leeks Blood Oranges.jpegThis week’s recipe is one that I developed for an article I wrote for Bay Area News Group, just released this morning. Given the Roasted Leeks Blood Oranges.jpeg“mainstreamedness” of the readership, I had to keep things a bit more tame to be accessible to a wider audience, while still giving the recipes an “exotic” spin to stay true to the My Berkeley Bowl theme. This recipe must be my favorite of the four new ones I developed for the article, because I’ve made it five times in the past month.

While neither leeks nor blood oranges are blow-you-out-of-the-water exotic, I figure that since blood oranges are not readily available at most “normal” grocery stores, they fall on the exotic side of the line. And leeks — well, most people that have used leeks have only sliced them up as a muted ingredient playing a minor role in the background of soups or casseroles, like an extra in a movie. So in that sense, I think this recipe is super exotic because leeks are the star of the show for once.MyBerkeleyBowl_Roasted Leeks Blood Oranges.jpeg
 I remember the first time I took a bite of protagonistic leeks like a girl remembers her first kiss. It was a cold, rainy day of February in Northern Spain and my mom, husband and I were on a road trip. We ordered a roasted leek salad in a nondescript bar filled with old spanish men sipping beer and escaping the rain. (Spoiler alert: when you order whatever dish is carelessly scrawled across the chalkboard hanging over a dingy locals’ bar on a quiet street in a Spanish town, Spain always delivers.) This salad came out topped with caramelized leeks as thick as rolling pins, and when I bit into them, I was blown away by how velvety, delicate, and exquisitely flavorful they were when prepared that way. My mom immediately shouted “otra!” to the waiter, knowing that we’d need at least one more salad if she actually wanted to get any (she couldn’t out-fork Mike and I when it was that good).MyBerkeleyBowl_Roasted Leeks Blood Oranges.jpeg
 That salad we had in Northern Spain was the inspiration for this dish, in which I braise leeks with wine and thyme until they are just as velvety and rich as the ones I had that rainy day in February. The sections of blood oranges add the brightness and color that make this dish all the more memorable. It makes a beautiful and unique side dish for a dinner party, or if you love leeks as much as I do, you can enjoy it on its own as a light dinner like Mike and I have been doing.MyBerkeleyBowl_Roasted Leeks Blood Oranges.jpeg
 As a side note, I discovered in my research that blood oranges are actually a result of a natural mutation! How splendidly wonderful is nature?!? Apparently, the Italian dude that first peeled one of his oranges thinking it was just a regular old orange-colored orange was so shocked to see the deep red color that he shouted “tarocco!” meaning “fake” or “phoney” in Italian, and is now the name of one of the three main varieties of blood oranges (along with Moro and Sanguinella). How rare is it now in day to find that something so beautiful and unique is made that way naturally, not by some gimmick or trick? MyBerkeleyBowl_Roasted Leeks Blood Oranges.jpegFortunately, this whole dish is free of gimmicks — just 100% natural, delicious, beautiful goodness. I hope you enjoy this first recipe of 2016.

Roasted Leeks with Blood Oranges

  • Servings: 4 as starter or side dish
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
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  • 6 leeks, roots and dark green tops removed
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 blood oranges

Dressing:

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Sherry vinegar
  • Black pepper and a pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove the tougher, outermost layers of the leeks and discard. Slice them in half lengthwise and run under cold water to remove all the grit, ensuring to rinse between the layers. Place the leeks in a single layer in a 9×13″ roasting pan, cut side down. Drizzle with the olive oil, wine, and vegetable stock (the liquid should come about halfway up the leeks), and snip the thyme sprigs over the top. Roast for 35-45 minutes, flipping the leeks over halfway through, until they are tender and lightly browned. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Arrange the leeks on a serving platter. Cut the rind off the blood oranges, slice into sections, and arrange over the top of the leeks. Place all the ingredients for the dressing in a small jar and shake to combine. Drizzle over the top of the leeks and oranges. Serve room temperature.

Carnival Cake (Vegan!)

IMG_20151115_223114As I already explained in Part I of Squash Week, this is a big freakin’ deal in our household. It’s like when the fair comes to town, except that instead of feeling all gross inside after gorging on funnel cake and corn dogs, we feel all warm and gooey inside after gorging on one of the world’s healthiest foods.

IMG_MyBerkeleyBowl_carnivalcakeFor Part II of Squash Week, and in honor of the fair, I chose this fun, bespeckled squash with the apt name: Carnival Squash. I realize that it’s kind of a cop-out to pretend that I created a recipe for an exotic produce item like Carnival Cake when, really, you could substitute any winter squash. But…well actually, I don’t have a but. I just have some delicious cake in front of me. So there.IMG_MyBerkeleyBowl_carnivalcakeDid I mention this cake is vegan? And whole wheat? I have served this at many gatherings to unknowing carnivores and lacto-ovo vegetarians, and always leave with a tube pan full of crumbs.IMG_MyBerkeleyBowl_carnivalcakeI’ll keep this cozy and sweet, since that’s how this cake tastes. If you’d like more background on winter squash or on Squash Week, see the previous post.IMG_MyBerkeleyBowl_carnivalcake

Carnival Cake

  • Servings: 12
  • Time: 30 minutes active time, 100 minutes bake time
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print
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  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 Tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups Carnival Squash puree* (or substitute any winter squash puree)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cranberries
  • Toppings: 1/2 cup roasted pumpkin seeds and 2 Tablespoons demerara sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, and salt in a bowl. In a separate, large mixing bowl, combine the remaining ingredients (except for the toppings) and whisk until smooth. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until combined. Pour into a greased and floured tube pan and top with the pumpkin seeds and demerara sugar. Bake for 60 minutes. Allow to cool before removing the outer part of the tube cake pan and serving.

* To make the Carnival squash puree: slice the squash in half and scoop out the seeds, place cut-side down in a baking dish and add about 1/2 inch of water. Cover the pan with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 30-50 minutes or until the squash is very soft when you pierce it with a fork. Scoop out the cooked squash with a spoon and mash with a fork or blend in a food processor until you have a smooth puree.

Berkeleyside NOSH

Blogger inspired by unique, exotic at Berkeley Bowl

I had the immense pleasure of being interviewed by Alix Wall, a writer for Berkeleyside Nosh and fellow Berkeley Bowl fan. She really captured the inspiration behind this project and what drove me to this insane challenge of designing a recipe for each and every unusual fruit and vegetable at Berkeley Bowl.


Please check out MBB’s media debut on Berkeleyside Nosh. The cover photo is by the incredibly talented Mike Byrne.

Poached Quince and Beets, a.k.a. Quincy Jones Salad

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There’s a satisfying logic to why I named this salad after the legendary music producer, Quincy Jones. (Well, it’s satisfying if you love puns and music trivia as much as my family does.) Here’s the logic:

  1.  The exotic fruit I feature in this recipe is quince, Mr. Jones’ fruit namesake. I’ll talk more about quince in a minute.
  2. Like quince, beets also remind me of Quincy Jones. For those who love their music trivia, you know that he produced Michael Jackson’s Beat It (along with Thriller and so many other hit songs). Who doesn’t love a beet/beat pun?
  3. In an interview about Beat It, Quincy Jones said that to make a hit “…you have to go for the throat in four, five or six different areas.” This salad follows his recipe for success by going for the throat with five distinct flavors: quince, beets, fennel, mustard, and clove.
  4. Quincy Jones is a complete badass and deserves to have a salad named after him. If I were to list all the credentials and accomplishments that mark one of the most prolific musical careers of all time, I’d take up at least 45 minutes of your time. I would know, because my mom once spent an entire car ride from Sonoma to San Francisco reading all of Quincy Jones’ accomplishments off her iphone to my sister and me (she often gets wrapped up in her enthusiasm to learn about a new subject and falls into the rabbit hole of wikipedia). We eventually had to stop her because we’d reached our saturation point, and now “Quincy Jones” has become the code word we use to clue in my mom that she has been going on too long about a subject. E.g. “Wow mom, all that stuff about banana slugs is really interesting. I bet Quincy Jones loves banana slugs…”  (By the way, banana slugs actually ARE insanely interesting, especially what they do with that hole on the side of their head. You should wikipedia them.)

wpid-2015-11-08_15.00.02.jpgNow that I’ve explained the meaning behind the Quincy Jones Salad, let’s move on to why you’re really here: quince.wpid-img_20151108_145337.jpgQuince is a fruit that looks like a pear or yellow apple, but is sour and as hard as a rock (have I sold you on it yet?). But with some poaching, stewing, or roasting, quince transforms under heat to a soft, peach-colored, sweet fruit that has a wonderful floral aroma. Quince has a very high pectin content so it has long been used to make jams and conserves, such as the Spanish delicacy, membrillo, which is quince cooked down to a jelly-like paste and traditionally served with Manchego cheese (here it is on the menu of a Spanish restaurant right down the street, Venga Paella).wpid-img_20151108_145007.jpg

In this recipe I lightly poach the quince with some clove and star anise until it has a tender yet firm texture similar to cooked apples. The end result goes really well with crisp fennel and earthy roasted beets, and the mustard vinaigrette brightens it all up a bit. To stay true to my Spanish roots, I crumbled some aged Manchego over the top of my salad, but you can leave it off if you’d prefer.wpid-img_20151108_145427.jpg

I’ll give it a rest before you all start commenting, “I wonder if Quincy Jones likes quince…”

Quincy Jones Salad

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 35 minutes plus 1 hour roasting time
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print
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  • 2 large beets or 4 smaller beets, washed but with skins still on
  • 2 quince (substitution: you can try green apples or Bosc pears, but poach for half the time)
  • 6 cloves
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 1 star anise pod
  • 2-3 strips lemon or orange zest
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic or apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 fennel bulb, halved and sliced thinly
  • 4 Tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt and fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 oz aged manchego, crumbled with your fingers

Wrap each beet in foil and roast in the oven on a roasting pan for 45-60 minutes at 375 degrees F, or until the beets are tender. Once cool, rub the peel off (they should be easy to remove) and slice into wedges.

Meanwhile, peel the quince, cut them in half and remove the core/seeds. Slice each half into 8 slices and put them into a saucepan with the clove, peppercorns, anise, lemon zest, water, vinegar, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil and let simmer uncovered for 20 minutes or until the quince slices are tender yet hold their shape, like cooked apples.

Make the vinaigrette by whisking the olive oil with the mustard, lemon juice, balsamic, salt and pepper. When ready to assemble the salad, layer the beets, quince and sliced fennel in a bowl and drizzle with the vinaigrette. Top with crumbled manchego cheese or serve as is.

 

Lemongrass Coconut Ice Cream (Vegan!)

You might want to sit down. Or maybe even lay down. Yes, this gelato should be eaten laying down to avoid injury when you literally pass out because it is so damn delicious.

And yet…wpid-img_20150930_222339.jpg…so simple!

It is so simple in taste and in process that I’m not going to subject you to a prolix post. Here are the only facts you need to know:

  1. Lemongrass is one of the most enchanting ingredients, with an aroma and flavor so synchronously citrusy and herbal that it keeps you wondering — and you don’t even know what you’re wondering at. It’s a member of the sugarcane family, common in Asian (especially Thai) cooking, and is perfect for infusing into liquids like….wpid-img_20150929_134959524_hdr.jpg
  2. …Coconut Milk, a.k.a. vegan panacea for former ice cream addicts. Don’t you dare buy the Lite stuff. The fat in the Good Stuff is not only healthy for you, but it also gives this concoction such a velvety, rich, creamy mouth-feel that vegan bullies might dangle you over a ledge and demand that you admit you put cream or eggs in your ice cream. wpid-img_20150930_222812.jpg
  3. Do yourself a favor and get an ice cream maker. Like I said in the prickly pear sorbet post, I have had wonderful results from this one.

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Short and sweet, as promised. I don’t want to waste your time that you could be spending making this recipe.

Lemongrass Coconut Ice Cream (Vegan!)

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 30 mins plus chilling time
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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  • 2 stalks lemongrass, sliced thinly
  • 2 cans coconut milk (regular, not lite)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2-3 slices of fresh ginger

To prepare the lemongrass, remove the outermost layer of the stalk and then trim the ends and the base off the stalk so you are left with about 5″ of the thickest part. Give the stalk a couple of whacks with a heavy object to loosen the layers a bit and then slice them thinly.

Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and stir gently over medium heat until it just begins to simmer. Remove from the heat and let stand for 15 minutes to let the lemongrass infuse. Pour into a container and chill in the fridge for 4-8 hours.

When ready to make your ice cream, strain the mixture and throw out the contents of the strainer. Turn on your ice cream maker and pour in the strained coconut milk. Allow the ice cream maker to do its magic until you have a perfectly creamy ice cream. Serve right away or, if you like your ice cream to be more set, you can put it in a container in the freezer for an hour or two.

Prickly Pear Sorbet

Nothing screams summer like frozen treats. So in honor of the first week of summer, I am introducing you to my life-changing sorbet. Yeah, that’s right, LIFE-CHANGING.

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This sorbet is so lusciously and luxuriously magenta, you won’t be able to stop staring at it. And when you take your first bite, you won’t be able to stop eating it. And when it’s all gone, you won’t be able to stop talking about it. It is just that good.

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Who would have thought that the source of all this goodness could be the little prickly fruits that sit on top of the prickly pear cactus? This unsuspecting fruit is a nutritional powerhouse, as are the pads of the cactus plant itself (also called nopales). Both the fruit and the cactus pads have been shown to have many health benefits, including lowering blood sugar, cholesterol, and even preventing hangovers. And the fruit is packed with fiber (over 5 grams per cup!) and impressive amounts of copper and magnesium, two harder-to-come-by minerals that are important in immunity and enzyme function. And of course, a fruit so richly colored is super high in antioxidants like betalains and Vitamin C.

Prickly pear cactus: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/df/Prickly_Pear_Closeup.jpg/640px-Prickly_Pear_Closeup.jpg

But obviously, the prickly pear doesn’t make this sorbet all on its own. What’s the secret? A good ice cream maker, ripe prickly pears, tangy lime juice, and… drum-roll please… just the tiniest hint of serrano chili that will have your friends thinking, “I think it’s there… no, maybe not…but it sort of tastes like… hell, give me another scoop because this is damn good.”

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I can’t stress enough the importance of making this in a real ice cream maker. Do NOT make this “granita style” by freezing it solid and scraping it or blending it later — the ice crystals that form will be way to big and clunky and you’ll miss out on the velvety, luxurious texture of this sorbet. I can’t think of a better way to spend money this summer than on an ice cream maker…

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Prickly Pear Sorbet

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 20 minutes plus chilling and freezing time
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

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  • 7-8 ripe prickly pears (should make 1 2/3 – 2 cups puree)
  • 1 cup water
  • Juice from one juicy lemon
  • Juice from one juicy lime
  • 1/2 – 2/3 cup sugar (depending on desired sweetness)
  • 1 serrano chili

To make the puree, slice the prickly pears in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh into a blender, getting as close to the skin as possible. (Caution: prickly pears can have invisible spines/fibers that are really annoying little buggers, so I recommend wearing gloves when you do this). Pulse the prickly pear pulp in the blender for a few seconds to make a puree and separate the flesh from the seeds. Strain out the seeds with a sieve and set aside the puree for later (you should have about 1 2/3 to 1 3/4 cup of puree).

In a small saucepan, heat the water and sugar until the sugar completely dissolves. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon and lime juice. Stir in the prickly pear puree. Next, use a fine grater or microplane to grate the sides of the serrano chili all the way around, avoiding the seeds in the middle. Taste the mixture when you are partway through grating the chili to see if you want to add more or stop there. Once the mixture is to your liking, put it in the fridge to chill completely.

Once the mixture is chilled, set up your ice cream maker and pour in the mixture, following your factory settings. Mine took about 20 minutes to set to a perfectly frozen yet velvety consistency. Serve immediately or put in the freezer for later. If you put it in the freezer, take it out of the freezer before serving to let it soften enough to be able to stir it with  spatula and bring back the smooth, velvety consistency.