Friday, 17 May 2013

3 frozen vegan treats that are actually not so awful for you

It's getting warm. And while it's not sweaty, sticky warm yet, if I left it that long to put together this post, it would happen approximately once the warm weather passed.

The thing about being vegan and wanting to have frozen treats is that you have to either make them yourself or deal with seriously unhealthy quantities of refined sugar and/or fat. (Freezies are vegan, as I hear it. They're also loaded with glucose-fructose, which is code in Canadian labeling for modified corn syrup. I don't know about you, but I definitely don't put that stuff in my body if I can help it.) Just because something doesn't contain animal products doesn't mean there's any kind of nutrition involved. But staying cool is important, and shouldn't be limited just because we're vegan. I mean, come on! We're resourceful and capable people. Let's take care of this, and in a smart way!

So here are three treats that will help you stay cool without loading up on fat and chemical-laced foods nearly as much as the ice cream aisle would have you do.

Banana pops

Awesome frozen energy boosts in the making!
I don't know who first came up with the idea of banana pops, but I'd like to send a love letter to them. Just when Spring hits and it's getting warm, I discover the bliss that is frozen bananas on a stick. Where have they been all my life?

It's easy. Just take a stick (in this case, I used toothpicks, but next time, I'll use something sturdier), and jab it in your peeled banana. Stick them in a freezer bag so that they're not stuck together and freeze. For real, that's all you do.

These little babies are to die for, contain a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals (hello, potassium!), have zero added sugar and are fat-free. Who'd have thought something so good for you could be so delicious? (Uh...well, I guess pretty much every vegan, actually...)

Green smoothies

This smoothie gives you an iron boost with spinach!
I seriously owe Becky over at Glue and Glitter for her 40 Days of Green Smoothies (which is on sale right now--check it out!). I've been thoroughly enjoying cleaning all the junk out of my system via delicious morning drinks. (Though, admittedly, I wager my roommates are less fond of them when I fire up that blender at what they consider to be the crack of dawn.)

Green smoothies are the best. No, seriously. I'm someone who believes in nutrious food that actually tastes good. I mean, why would it be any good to have nutritious food that tastes awful? It's just going to be a battle to get yourself to eat healthy that way.

Green smoothies fit the bill. Becky's recipes are all free of refined sugar, and only have small amounts of natural oils (like from avocado or flaxseeds that you mix into the drink). What's even better is that they're loaded with vitamins and minerals from the fruits, seeds and greens that you're adding to your morning drink. I've been known to go back for a second smoothie mid-afternoon when I'm low on energy and craving something cold and sweet. How can you feel guilty about puréed spinach and mango?

Wednesday night, our soon-to-be roommate came over and she was low on energy. She told me she had been eating poorly, so I whipped her up the smoothie below. It's high in iron (compounded by the vitamin C in the fruit), has omega-3 from the flax, and gets her a healthy dose of potassium from the banana. It tasted like something out of an ice cream stand, and so I need to share this with you.

Tropical green smoothie
Makes 1 large serving (500ml)

1 cup drinking-quality coconut milk (like Silk or So Delicious)
1 large handful spinach
1/2 frozen banana
1 handful frozen kiwis
1 handful frozen pineapple
1 handful frozen mango
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed

First blend the milk with the spinach till you've got a pretty broken-down, green liquid (about 10-15 seconds). Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until everything is well puréed. If you find you can't get chunks to blend, shut off the blender and stir it with a spoon to make sure any air pockets are taken out. Once your smoothie is...well...smooth, then pour into a tall glass and enjoy! It will be thick enough to eat with a spoon, which is how I like to eat it because it makes it feel like I'm being naughty and eating ice cream!
TIP: When you're in a hurry, a pint-size mason jar is the perfect airtight travel mug for smoothies...or any number of other things, for that matter!

Homemade vegan ice cream

And last but not least, ice cream. (In case you missed the Vegan Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream recipe I posted recently, here you have it again.) If you don't have an automatic ice cream maker, it'll take a little longer to make ice cream, but it's really rewarding when you can control what you put in it and it tastes super yummy.

I used a light coconut milk to make my ice cream, which went against everything I read on-line (they seemed to want me to use full-fat coconut cream, which is around 40g fat per cup, compared to my Silk True Coconut, which is only 5g per cup). I was really happy with the end product, but the beauty of it is that if you do like a creamier ice cream, you can use coconut cream instead. Three cheers for DIY ice cream!

For freezing purposes, you do need to add some sugar to the recipe to get the right consistency, so I'd stick with a Fair Trade, organic turbinado sugar that's not as refined and is vegan (Camino's is really good). The ratio I would use is 4:1, so using 1/4 of the sugar that you use milk. In my recipe, it turned out to be 3 cups of coconut milk to 3/4 cup sugar.

Honestly, aside from sugar and milk, and a little salt, you don't need anything in this ice cream but your flavourings. So here's the basic formula so that you can tweak it to your liking.

Honestly, I can't stop eating this vegan chocolate ice cream.
Homemade vegan ice cream
Makes about 1 litre

3 cups light coconut milk
3/4 cup turbinado sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Add-ins (see below)

If you're using an ice cream maker, be sure to freeze your machine's bowl solid. Mix together the milk, sugar, salt and any other liquid or powder add-ins. Pour this mixture into the machine bowl through the spout as the machine is running. Let run about 15 minutes, and then add any other add-ins without stopping the machine, and let run till the desired thickness is reached (about 20 minutes). Serve immediately or store in the freezer in an airtight container.

If you're doing it by hand, combine all ingredients and mix well. Pour into a shallow dish so that you've got a thin layer of ice cream mixture (about 1 inch or thinner is good). Freeze, stirring often, until it starts to resemble ice cream (a couple of hours). Put it in an airtight container and store in the freezer (it will get harder and more like ice cream). To serve, you may need to leave it on the counter for a few minutes to let it soften a little. Enjoy!

Some traditional add-ins
These vegan ice creams have a soft serve consistency.
Chocolate ice cream: 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/4-1/2 cup cocoa powder (depending on how chocolatey you want it to be), both mixed into the milk. As a word to the wise, definitely mix this well before adding to the machine, if using a machine. It helps a lot to mix the cocoa powder in a little bit of milk first to make a paste, as it dissolves much easier!

Vanilla ice cream:
1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract, added with the milk.

Strawberry ice cream: 1/2 cup crushed ripe strawberries (or frozen, thawed), mixed in with the milk mixture.

Chocolate chunk: 2 teaspoons vanilla extract added with the initial mixture, plus 50g chopped dark chocolate added once the ice cream thickens a little.

Maple walnut: 2 tablespoons maple syrup (or to taste) added with the milk, and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts when it has begun to thicken.

The general rule of thumb with add-ins is that if it's a chunky or powder add-in, you want to add about 1/2 cup. If it's an extract or flavouring, stick with between 1 teaspoon and 2 tablespoons, depending on how strong it is (mint extract is much stronger than maple syrup, for instance). Always add liquid and powder (like cocoa) add-ins with the milk and sugar mixture. Chunky ingredients can be added after.

You can use milks other than coconut, but I've found that coconut works best to make it creamy but also not full of fat. Give a few different kinds of milk a try and see which your favourite is!

If you want to make a fruit sorbet, use about half fruit juice (or purée) and half water to replace the milk. You can also add a tablespoon or two of lemon juice to cut the tartness, if you're not using a citrus base already.

Get creative! If you find an especially great flavour, make sure to leave me a comment so I can try it!


  1. And banana-cream! It probably tastes the same as banana pops because it's made with frozen banana: you blend frozen bananas with vanilla extract and milk of your choice. The only problems are that it melts fast, and if you freeze it becomes rock-solid.

  2. Good call, Laurel! I wonder if you could make this and pour it into popcicle molds, to make little banana popcicles? Then it can freeze as rock solid as is pleases! :)