Sour Cherry Frozen Yogurt

The sudden onset of summer-like temps in Chicago has made us all a little giddy this week. When it’s 83 degrees on April Fool’s Day, the weather may be the greatest prank of all – few of us had work on our minds and the whole of the city itched to get outside as soon as the work day was done! Mark and I celebrated this bit of summer in the springtime by firing up the grill. We made burgers and thai coleslaw and dined on our balcony, with the sound of Lake Michigan providing the perfect soundtrack. And for the grand finale – another taste of summer, this sour cherry frozen yogurt.

I’m not sure if you can even find frozen sour cherries at the grocery, but they are a regional treat that I look forward to each summer and squirrel away in the freezer for winter. These bright red cherries make you pucker and your jaw ache with their tartness. This frozen yogurt highlights the tartness of the cherries perfectly and I love the tang that the thick Greek yogurt adds to the frozen treat. The mixture is equally good frozen into homemade popsicles if you don’t own an ice cream maker.

Sour Cherry Frozen Yogurt
Makes 1 quart

2 cups pitted frozen sour cherries, mostly thawed
1 cup frozen sweet cherries, mostly thawed
3/4 cup simple syrup (or 2/3 cup of sugar)
2 cups 2% Fage Greek yogurt
2 T tequila
squeeze of lemon juice

  1. Place the cherries, simple syrup, yogurt, tequila and lemon juice in the blender. Puree until smooth, if you like your fro yo a little chunky, just pulse the blender until you have your desired consistency. Chill thoroughly, then pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and churn. (When storing fro yo in the freezer for a few days, you’ll want to let the yogurt thaw on the counter for a few minutes before scooping, as it freezes quite hard due to the low fat content.)

139 cal per 1/2 cup serving, 10cal from fat, 1.4g fat, 20mg sodium, 90mg potassium, 27g carbs, 24g sugars, 5g protein

Bonus pic: This is one of the trio of sweet guest greyhounds staying at our house this week. Flyer was VERY interested in my frozen yogurt, and loves to hang with me out on the balcony (the other 3 hounds prefer to stay inside).

Black and White Popcorn

While Mark and I were kicking back watching House, I felt the itch for a sweet treat, and for once there was no homemade ice cream in the freezer. I went to my other go-to quick snack – popcorn. I wasn’t feeling like making the usual cinnamon-spiced popcorn, so I went rummaging through the spice cabinet in search of new flavors.

Cardmom and garam masala almost won the day, but then I saw my lovely jar of deep, dark dutched cocoa powder from the spice house – ah-ha! Thinking back to that awesome Mexican hot chocolate ice cream, I grabbed the cinnamon too and I was on my way.

Chuck a chunk of butter in a small bowl with a little brown sugar, heaping spoonful of cocoa, a little cinnamon, salt and melt it all together. Make sure you taste the beautiful cocoa syrup to see if it’s got the right balance of deep cocoa, with a hint of cinnamon and salt. Drizzle it on your warm popcorn, give it a stir and watch the bowl magically empty. This is my new favorite TV snack.

What’s your favorite way to eat popcorn? Pop your thoughts in the comments…(or throw popcorn at me for that bad pun).

Black & White Popcorn
Serves 2

8 cups air popped popcorn
2 T butter, unsalted
2 T brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 T good quality cocoa powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
  1. Melt the butter, cocoa powder, brown sugar and butter in small bowl in  the microwave on low. Watch it carefully so that it doesn’t burn or bubble over. Stir with a spoon to meld everything together. When the sugar and butter have melted together, drizzle over the popped corn, and stir quickly to coat. Ta-da!
274 cal per serving, 130 cal from fat, 13g fat, 36g carbs, 6g fiber, 9g sugars, 4.9g protein

Mexican Hot Chocolate Ice Cream – Dairy-Free

Remember those pavlovas I made a couple weeks ago? They left me with four lonely egg yolks that were definitely bound for ice cream. This is the first new ice cream recipe on the new site – so I guess this place finally feels like home!

Deep dark chocolate. Check. Warm cinnamon. Check. An earthy, mysterious hint of chile. Check. Creamy chilled dairy-free confection. Check.  This is one serious dessert…and the perfect addition to my burgeoning ice cream repertoire. This is an intense chocolate hit for the deepest days of winter. A spike of chocolate and chile to lighten your mood when the subzero days are getting you down. Did I mention that this ice cream is so creamy, you won’t even notice that it’s dairy-free?!

Mexican Hot Chocolate Dairy-Free Ice Cream
Makes 1 quart

2 13oz cans coconut milk
3/4 cup good quality dutched cocoa powder
2/3 cup brown sugar
pinch of salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ancho chile powder
4 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 T brandy

  1. Pour 1 can of coconut milk into the blender. Place the egg yolks in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Pour the other can of coconut milk into a small saucepan along with the cinnamon, cocoa powder, salt and brown sugar. Stir as the mixture heats, to ensure that the cocoa melts into the coconut milk.
  3. When the mixture is warm, but not yet piping hot, temper the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm cocoa mixture into the egg yolks, stirring the whole time. When you’ve combined the yolks and milk, pour it back into the saucepan. Keep the burner on low and stir constantly as you make the custard, which should take about 3-4 minutes. Because the cocoa mixture is so thick before you add the yolks, the usual “coat the spoon” test doesn’t hold here, so I just warmed the mixture for a few minutes.
  4. Pour the custard into the blender with the other can of coconut milk. Blend for a few seconds to make the mixture super smooth. Add the vanilla and brandy, whiz for another second or two to combine, then chill the mixture thoroughly before turning in your ice cream maker.

284 cal per 1/2 cup, 180 cal from fat, 21g fat, 14g sat fat, 105mg cholesterol, 20mg sodium, 150mg potassium, 19g carb, 3g fiber, 12g sugar, 3.5g protein

Mini Chocolate Orange Pavlovas

I’ve always loved meringue of any sort – piled high on top of a tart lemon pie, or a crisp meringue cookie, doesn’t matter to me. Growing up, my parents’ friend LuAnn was an incredible baker – to the tune of giving my dad a giant, dense chocolate raspberry torte for his birthday. It was amazing stuff, and mom would slice it up and store in the freezer to be doled out in precious servings weeks later. I think the torte was just as good frozen as it was fresh – no one could ever wait for a slice to thaw before digging in. LuAnn later went on to open the first gourmet chocolate shop in the area, Choo-Choos Chocolates. It’s still there and she’s still whipping up amazing desserts.

Once in awhile, Mom would take us to Choo Choos and LuAnn would wrap up a meringue mushroom for each of us, wrapped carefully in a cellophane bag and sealed with her classic gold sticker. Her meringues were crisp, light as air and more importantly, she dipped the bottom of each perfect mushroom cap in creamy belgian chocolate. It was the perfect treat. And I think that the next time I’m in Michigan, I’ll have to stop by LuAnn’s and pick up a meringue or two.

My meringues are nothing like LuAnn’s, though still very tasty. These meringues are mini pavlovas, a favorite dessert of New Zealand. A pavlova is a beautiful thing – dry and crisp on the outside, and light as a cloudy and soft inside. Pavlovas are usually baked as one giant meringue, to be shared amongst many guests and topped with fruit and whipped cream.

We took my meringues to Stacey and Jon’s home for dinner and games and I wanted a light dessert we could snack on as we played. Instead of one giant pavlova, I made mini pavlovas. They’re flavored with a hint of orange zest and a healthy dose of cocoa. The meringue base was absolutely perfect, too…until I added a teaspoon of chocolate extract, and it was too much liquid for the egg whites, and they didn’t hold their shape when baked. But even so, the final result was quite pretty on its own, and the texture was perfect.

Mini Pavlovas
Makes 16 cookies

4 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup powdered sugar
pinch of salt
4 T good quality dutched cocoa powder
zest of one orange
1 tsp chocolate extract (dangerous and optional)

  1. Prepare a baking sheet with a silpat or lined with parchment paper, and prehead the oven to 275 degrees.
  2. Place the egg whites in your clean stand mixer bowl with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt on medium speed for about 5 minutes, until the whites hold soft peaks.
  3. Increase the speed to high, and slowly add the cocoa powder and powdered sugar. Beat until glossy and the mixture holds stiff peaks and is very thick – another 3-4 minutes of mixing. Add the orange zest. If you dare, add the chocolate extract right at the end.
  4. Using a cookie scoop or large spoon, make sloppy mounds of the batter – about 1/4 cup each, leaving 2-3″ between meringues – they will spread. The recipe makes about 16 pavlovas.
  5. Put the meringues in the preheated oven and immediately reduce the heat to 250. Bake for 40 minutes, until the outer shell is dry and just beginning to harden, but still gives a bit when pressed with your finger. Turn the oven off and crack the door just a bit. Leave the meringues in the oven for another 30 minutes, then remove and let them cool completely on the counter. When they are cool, store in an air tight container for a day or so, but they’re really best the first day.

38 cal per cookie, 0 fat, 25mg sodium, 50mg potassium, 1.2g protein