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Chill Out: Three Non-Dairy Frozen Desserts

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 Easy Homemade Popsicles, Ice Cream, and Sorbet

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Frozen treats beat the heat! Did you know that centuries ago, ice was hauled down from the mountains and stored in ice houses, then sweetened to create “sherbets” for ancient Persian rulers? We also know that Alexander the Great enjoyed snow flavored with honey and nectar and King Solomon was fond of iced drinks. During the Roman Empire, Nero sent minions into the Alps for snow and then his chefs flavored this precious import with pureed fruits and juices. Face it, we’ve been trying to chill out for millennia.

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Let It Go

Ice cream, popsicles, and sorbets are some of my favorite summertime sweet desserts. (This Peach Ice Cream recipe is my favorite!) Homemade ice cream is special and there are so many inexpensive ice cream machines it makes making it really accessible. But ice cream often involves a cooked custard and can be intimidating for people.

Take a cue from the past and make it simple! Popsicles can be as easy as freezing fruit juice. Or you can even simply freeze juice in old-fashioned ice trays like with this Cantaloupe Creamsicle Soda. As you will see in Nancie McDermott’s recipe for Coconut Ice Cream, ice cream doesn’t have to contain dairy.

Fresh fruit sorbets are exceptionally simple to make, light, and more healthy than many ice cream recipes. It’s just a matter of blitzing a bit of fruit with a sugar simple syrup, agave, or honey. And, I find making sorbet a great way to use berries and fruit that are no longer picture perfect.

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Avocado Popsicles

Guacamole? Sure? Avocado toast? Yup — de rigueur now across the land in chef-driven cafes to hipster coffee shops. But frozen avocados? Yes! Avocado popsicles are incredibly creamy and rich.  And, they are dairy-free – made simply of frozen pureed avocado, agave, citrus, and water.

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How to Choose an Avocado

It couldn’t be more simple! Avocados can be tricky. I always find that they are often as hard as rocks at the market then become instantly overripe and too soft. In this video, my dear friend Sandra Gutierrez explains how to choose a ripe avocado and how to remove the seed pit. Did you know avocados had belly buttons? (By the way, if you need to speed up ripening place the avocado in a brown paper bag with an apple. Apples produce ethylene gas, a hormone that triggers ripening. Need that guac or popsicle even faster? Put the bag in a sunny windowsill for faster ripening.)



How to Make Ice Cream and Sorbet without an Ice Cream Maker

Popsicles and old school ice trays are easy. There are also lots of different machines of varying costs on the market for freezing ice cream and sorbet. You can also do it by hand. Here’s how to make ice cream and sorbet without an ice cream maker.

  • Prepare the ice cream or sorbet mixture and chill it over an ice bath.
  • Place a loaf pan, deep baking dish, or stainless steel bowl in the freezer, and pour your ice cream or sorbet mixture into it.
  • After forty-five minutes, open the freezer and check the mixture. As it starts to freeze near the edges, remove it from the freezer and stir it vigorously with a rubber spatula. Get in there and beat up any frozen sections. Return the pan to the freezer.
  • Continue to check the mixture every 30 minutes, stirring vigorously. (You can also use a hand-held mixer, but be quick about it so you don’t melt your progress.)
  • Keep checking periodically and stirring while it freezes until the mixture is frozen. It will likely take 2 to 3 hours.



Easy Freezy

Check out these frozen delights. I’m sharing “Easy Freezy” recipes for Dairy Free Avocado Popsicles, Coconut Ice Cream, and Berry Sorbet. My friend and colleague Nancie McDermott‘s Thai Coconut Ice Cream is made from coconut milk, which is rich and creamy enough that a custard isn’t necessary. So good!

Making sorbet is as easy as it can be — and while sorbets usually contain sugar or some other sweetener, they seldom contain fat. My sorbet formula is perfect – 4 cups fruit to 1 cup simple syrup. No fat, no worrying about curdling a creme anglaise, just press “puree.”

I hope you enjoy. If you give any a try, please take a snap and tag me on social. I love seeing what everyone is doing and so grateful that you have me at your table. Thank you.

Bon Appétit Y’all!
Virginia Willis 

PS Need more ice cream recipes? How about Goat Cheese and Chocolate Orange? Check out this post with Five Ice Cream Recipes plus a book about the history of ice cream!  

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Avocado Popsicles

Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time4 hours
Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: American, Mexican
Keyword: dessert, frozen, ice cream, popsicle


  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • Pinch of fine sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice


  • Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until the mixture comes to a boil and the sugar has dissolved. Let cool to room temperature. Halve the avocados in half lengthwise. Remove the pit and scoop the flesh into a blender, along with the cooled syrup, and a pinch of salt. Blend until smooth, scraping the sides as needed. Add the lemon juice and blend just until combined. Divide the mixture among the molds, snap on the lid, and freeze until solid, about 4 hours.

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Nancie McDermott's Coconut Ice Cream

Makes about 2 cups
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, Thai
Keyword: frozen, ice cream


  • 2 14- ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk about 3 1⁄2 cups
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 ⁄2 tsp salt


  • In a heavy saucepan, combine coconut milk, sugar and salt. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring often to dissolve sugar and salt. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl.
  • Cover bowl and refrigerate until very cold, about 2 hours. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. Serve at once or transfer to an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 weeks.


You can make the ice cream base in advance, cover, and chill for up to 1 day before you churn it into ice cream.

Sorbet recipes on virginiawillis.com

Mixed Berry Lemon Verbena Sorbet

Makes about 7 cups
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, French
Keyword: frozen, ice cream, sorbet


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 sprigs lemon verbena
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups mixed berries such as blueberries raspberries, or blackberries


  • Make an ice bath by filling a large bowl halfway with ice cubes and water. Set aside. Heat the water in a small saucepan over high heat to boiling. Add sugar and stir to dissolve. Add lemon verbena. Remove from the heat and let steep until tepid, about 15 minutes.
  • Remove the lemon verbena and discard. Place the berries in the jar of a blender. Pour over the simple syrup and add the salt. Puree until smooth.
  • Cool completely over an ice bath or refrigerate until cool. Churn the sorbet according to the machine instructions.

If you are interested in hosting me for an event, cooking class, or a book signing, let me know! Send an email to jona@virginiawillis.com and we’ll be back in touch as soon as possible.

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Coconut Ice Cream Recipe Courtesy of Simply Vegetarian Thai Cooking by Nancie McDermott, 2015 © www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission. Available where books are sold.

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Virginia Willis

Georgia-born French-trained Chef Virginia Willis’ biography includes making chocolate chip cookies with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, foraging for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvesting capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and hunting for truffles in France. She is talent and chef-instructor for the digital streaming platform Food Network Kitchen. Her segments feature authentic and innovative Southern cooking. She was the celebrity chef at the Mansion at Churchill Downs for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. Virginia has spoken at SXSW, cooked for the James Beard Foundation, and beguiled celebrities such as Bill Clinton, Morgan Freeman, and Jane Fonda with her cooking — but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. Recently, her work has been inspired by her weight loss success story, Virginia has lost 65# and kept it off for over 2 1/2 years! “If a French-trained, Southern chef can do it, you can, too.” She is the author of Fresh Start; Secrets of the Southern Table; Lighten Up, Y’all; Bon Appétit, Y’all; Basic to Brilliant, Y’all; Okra; and Grits. Lighten Up, Y’all won a James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence in the Focus on Health Category. Lighten Up, Y’all as well as her first cookbook, Bon Appétit, Y’all, were finalists in the Best American Cookbook for the International Association of Cookbook Awards and were also named by the Georgia Center of the Book as “Books Georgians Should Read.” She is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart Living, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree; has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants; and traveled the world producing food stories – from making cheese in California to escargot farming in France. She has appeared on Food Network’s Chopped, CBS This Morning, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. She’s been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, People Magazine, Eater, and Food52 and has contributed to Eating Well, GRLSQUASH, Culture, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appétit, and more. The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of “Seven Food Writers You Need to Know.” Her legion of fans loves her down-to-earth attitude, approachable spirit, and traveling exploits. Her culinary consulting company, Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc specializes in content creation, recipe development, culinary editorial and production services, cookbook writing, media training, spokesperson and brand representation, and public speaking. Virginia is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Atlanta Community Food Bank Advisory Board, as well as the Community Farmers Market Advisory Board. She is a food and hunger advocate for No Kid Hungry and a premier member of the No Kid Hungry Atlanta Society. She a member of The James Beard Foundation, Chef’s Collaborative, Georgia Organics, and Southern Foodways Alliance.

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