Have I mentioned that I have a thing for ice cream? Oh, let’s not beat around the bush: I love it. I do I do I do I do I do.
I come by this honestly. My Dad was also an ice cream lover. He ate each cone or bowlful like it was an experience; you could see him savour every bite. I wonder if that appreciation was a result of being the ninth of ten kids at a time when treats were few and far between. I’m sure he was often jostled out of the way by his slew of older brothers when something good was on the table.
When my kids were little, Dad’s mission was to give them as much ice cream and Belgian chocolate as he could get away with. I’ll never forget the first time he fed Jennifer ice cream. She was old enough to sit up, maybe around nine months. Dad would scoop a bit of vanilla ice cream onto a teaspoon, pop it into his mouth for a moment to warm it up, eject it back onto the spoon and then transfer it to the baby, who was eagerly awaiting each bite. How I managed to restrain my first-time-mother, over-protective self and not freak out about his mouth-warming process, I don’t know, but to this day I’m glad that I said nothing, and just let them have that moment together.
When I was growing up on the farm, we had an ice cream truck that came around in the summers. Seriously. Not the kind of ice cream truck you see in the city announcing itself with musical chimes and offering a variety of individual treats, though. No, ours was a pick up truck with a freezer compartment on the back, carrying huge cardboard tubs of ice cream like you sometimes see in ice cream parlours. Each must have held at least a couple of gallons. Vanilla was a favourite, especially with all the strawberries my mother grew, and pretty chocolate-strawberry-vanilla-striped Neapolitan another. I snuck into my mother’s massive deep freezer many a time over the summer to get myself a bowlful. That may be the reason Mom bought me a girdle when I was twelve, but that’s quite another story.
Before I go any further, a serendipitous coincidence just happened. CBC radio is playing in the background here, and they just played the song “Ice Cream” from the musical version of Anne of Green Gables. So, how could I not share it with you here?
I’ve made traditional ice cream a few times, like this pumpkin version, but mostly I purchase it. Single servings are the way for me to go, lest I dig into a carton and it disappears before I realize.
These days, though, there’s a new ice cream that’s being churned out (pun!) in my kitchen. The creamy concoctions calling your name in the photographs here don’t contain any dairy at all. In fact, they’re pretty much all fruit. If you haven’t already met, allow me to introduce you to ‘nice cream,’ made with frozen bananas and other flavourings.
Nice cream has a soft serve consistency if you eat it right away, and its creaminess definitely fulfills the luxury factor that I look for in an ice cream experience. If you store it in the freezer, you may need to let it soften for a while before scooping it out. As it softens, it regains its creaminess. We’re under a heat advisory here right now, and my big two-flavour cone cooled me off and filled me up most satisfactorily.
I’ve made three versions of nice cream so far: sweet cherry with almond, pineapple mint and strawberry mint. I definitely will venture into chocolate territory one of these days and will be sure to share the experience here. I’m kicking myself for not getting a photo of the sweet cherry version: the colour had the rich hue of cherry juice, and it tasted as good as it looked.
A Trio of Nice Cream
Notes: Nice cream making requires a very powerful blender or food processor. In fact, it’s given my Vitamix a run for its money; the first time I made it, I was afraid the motor would burn out. It’s a good idea to check your equipment’s manual for tips on processing frozen food. I’ve since learned to cut the banana chunks smaller and to let both the bananas and larger, harder fruits like strawberries sit out a bit to start to thaw and soften before blending. I also use the tamper to help things along. Also, if the mixture seems ‘stuck’ while blending (it won’t be moving and the blender may be whining), adding a couple tablespoons of liquid helps it loosen up and get moving.
Use bananas that are good and ripe (I like them freckling on the peel, but not as soft as what I’d use for banana bread). Peel them and cut into chunks about half an inch long, and freeze on a tray. Once frozen, store in airtight bags until needed.
Once the nice cream is blended, either use it right away or store in airtight containers in the freezer. Take it out 15 or 20 minutes before serving to allow it to begin to soften up and become scoopable.
Strawberry Mint Nice Cream
- 2 cups whole frozen strawberries
- 1 banana, in frozen chunks
- about 8 small fresh mint leaves
- 2 tbsp water (or other liquid)
Let the strawberries and bananas sit in the bowl of the blender or food processor until they start to thaw and soften slightly. Pulse until the fruit is broken up into fairly small pieces. Add the mint leaves and begin to process continuously, turning up the speed as the mixture begins to come together. Add liquid if needed to achieve the desired ‘soft serve’ consistency.
Pineapple Mint Nice Cream
- about 1 cup fresh or frozen pineapple chunks
- 1 banana, in frozen chunks
- about 6 small fresh mint leaves
If using frozen pineapple chunks, place in bowl of blender or food processor until they start to soften somewhat. If using fresh pineapple, add the frozen banana right away. Pulse until the fruit is broken up into fairly small pieces. Add the mint, and process continuously until the mixture comes together smoothly. If using frozen fruit, you may need to add liquid. I used fresh pineapple, and it was quite runny. I froze it until firm, then broke it up and worked it to achieve the creamy consistency.
Sweet Cherry Nice Cream
- 2 cups frozen sweet cherry halves (make sure there are NO PITS!)
- 2 bananas, in frozen chunks
- 1/4 tsp pure almond extract
- 2 tbsp water (or other liquid)
Using a powerful blender or food processor, start by pulsing the fruit until the fruit is broken up into fairly small pieces. Then add the almond extract and begin to process continuously, turning up the speed as the mixture begins to come together. Add liquid if needed to achieve the desired ‘soft serve’ consistency.