The other day my daughter, Lola, came back from school and pleaded that we go out for frozen yogurt at the place round the corner. Now the “place round the corner,” can only be described as foul. It’s one of those frozen yogurt bars where you pump your artificially flavored soft whip, which I happen to know is a powder mix complete with high fructose corn syrup, into a cup and top it with gummy bears and worse. I’m not averse to a fun treat every now and again, but for afterschool nutrition???
I said a flat-out “NO,” which was greeted with a thunderous expression, and, “you NEVER let me have things like that!” This is not at all true, but it was the first of about 7 manipulation tactics, which almost had me reaching for my car keys. I managed to hang on by a thread and promised her that I’d try to make some frozen ice cream. “Homemade! Yuck, that will be totally gross mom,” was the encouraging response from madam, so I set out to prove her wrong.
I did my research and found out the Cuisinart ICE-21 was probably my best bet. It got the highest scores on a number of websites, and seemed small enough not to absolutely appall my husband – yes, the gadgets are mounting up, he has a point, but a greedy girl’s gotta get what a greedy girl needs.
So when the maker arrived, I ripped open the recipe booklet, as I wanted to get started right away. I have a number of other recipes, however, first go round I wanted to stick to the manufacturer’s directions, should something go wrong.
I didn’t love some of the ingredients in the Strawberry Frozen Yogurt Recipe (the healthiest one,) so did some Gorgeously Greedy substitutions, the most important of which was exchanging my trusty agave nectar for the recommended light corn syrup. I also decided to use a low-glycemic sugar, my favorite being Coconut Palm Sugar.
Strawberry Frozen Yogurt
4 cups low fat plain yogurt, strained through a cheesecloth for 2-4 hours
½ cup coconut palm sugar (or any healthy granulated equivalent.)
Pinch of salt
1tsp pure vanilla extract
2tbsp agave nectar
1 pound of fresh or frozen mixed berries
11/2 tbsp honey
1 ½ tbsp fresh lemon juice
Step one: Strain the yogurt.
Now this was not as easy as one might have imagined, and while I was unsuccessfully messing around with endless pieces of kitchen towel and cheesecloth, It did occur to me that those frozen yogurt bars with the ghastly toppings, are convenient!
I found the best ever way to strain is to cut a big panel out of an old clean t-shirt (I have a bin of them waiting to be rags,) and carefully pour your yogurt into the centre. You have to work pretty quickly as you then gather up the edges of the square and form a little yogurt bundle. Secure the bundle with a rubber band (although you are making a pony tail,) and hang the whole thing from the handle of a wooden spoon, over a bowl. It sounds like a pain, but it’s actually easy and I’ve made all the mistakes for you. BTW – don’t go the cheesecloth route, because all of the yogurt, not just the water, seeped out of the holes – I was totally appalled. The t-shirt is the way to go, trust me.
Phew – okay, worst part over. Now onto the next step -
Place the berries, lemon and honey in a saucepan and simmer over a low heat for 10 minutes. Strain the fruit and keep the liquid * Allow the fruit to cool.
* This is a no-brainer. You want to keep the liquid, as it makes the most perfect berry cordial. Chill it and when you’re ready to drink it, pour about 1tbsp in a pretty glass, then add ice and sparkling water.
When yogurt is done straining (I’d day 2 hours is fine,) and the berries are cool, mix then up together in a medium bowl and place in the fridge for a couple of hours to chill. You’d actually be wise to do these first 2 steps the day before. I got on a roll and was determined to have it done in one afternoon, so finished the yogurt making process late at night!
Step Four: Make the Frozen Yogurt!
This is the fun part. You assemble the yogurt maker, which is just a matter of placing the bowl, mixing paddle thing, and cover on the base. Oh – it’s VITAL that you put the bowl in the freezer the day before, as it has to be icy cold for the whole thing to work.
Once assembled, all you need do is turn the machine on and slop the yogurt mixture through the wide opening in the top. Put on your timer for 20 minutes and your frozen yogurt is ready.
Step Five: TOPPINGS!
I wouldn’t have been forgiven had I not offered a substantial variety of toppings, especially as my daughter had a very good friend coming over and didn’t want to be embarrassed by topping-less frozen yogurt.
I schlepped to the bulk bins at Wholefoods and to my delight found some really healthy morsels that I knew would do the trick. I love that there’s big signs all over the bulk bins saying, “no grazing please.” I laughed, as there was a man on one side of me, not just grazing, but stuffing handfuls of cashew nuts and malt balls into his mouth as quickly as he could. Bless him, he was clearly very hungry.
I managed to sneak in some coconut flakes, slivered almonds and fresh fruit into the selection – all 3 of which were avoided like the plague.
Having got the girls into bed, I settled down with an enormous bowl of my hard-earned frozen yogurt covered with the “healthy” toppings that the girls had eschewed.
Admittedly, it was a laborious process compared to weighing your bowl of soft whip at the store, but the taste comparison – HELLOOOOOO!
This actually tasted like yogurt – well it is yogurt. It was beautifully tart, with ribbons of pink and red fruit running though it. It’s a heavier texture than the light soft whip you may be used to, but it’s so satisfying. I actually felt great after eating it, which can’t be said for the other stuff.
The most satisfying aspect of the whole exercise was seeing the girls liking their bowls, and knowing that their little bodies were filled with organic goodness, instead of crappy junk.
Yep – my Cusinart ICE 23 is a keeper – sorry hubby, but it’s going to make it’s home alongside my trusty bread maker in the laundry room cupboard – and I promise I’ll use it. Lola has already picked out the next flavor from the recipe booklet: chocolate pretzel (with marshmallow toppings,) – Ugh!