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Frozen Treats: Avocado Popsicles and Coconut Ice Cream

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Homemade ice cream and sorbets are some of my favorite summertime sweet desserts. (Peach is undoubtedly my favorite!) I like ice cream, I mean who doesn’t like ice cream? But I really enjoy making ice cream. Homemade ice cream is special and there are so many inexpensive ice cream machines it makes it really accessible. 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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Recently I taught at Rancho la Puerta where my friend chef Denise Roa is doing the same sorts of things with savory ingredients by making paletas, or popsicles. I tasted a few of their frozen concoctions and was very inspired and intrigued. The tomato and herb and  lemon verbena and lime were bursting with flavor. However, the one that really blew me away was avocado. Wow. It  was incredibly creamy and rich, yet dairy-free, simply made with pureed avocado, agave, and water. I recently reworked a version at home with great success.


That experiment also inspired me to think a bit more creatively when it comes to other flavors of ice creams and sorbets. I also have a dairy free family member and like to be able to serve “inclusively”, meaning I cook dishes that everyone can enjoy. I also often look to the tropics for refreshing summertime desserts.

With July heating up and the produce stands filling up, we’ve been working to eat more vegetables and vegetarian dishes. I’ve been reading my friend and colleague Nancie McDermott‘s Simply Vegetarian Thai Cooking. With the temperature rising, tropical cooking is often the way to go. I also admit, sometimes I need a spicy spark to get me out of my Southern-French trained chef box.

You very likely may have read a blog post or an article I’ve written in the past that mentioned Nancie. I’m a huge fan. She’s The Expert on Southern Cakes and Pies — and Asian cooking, too! She gained her Southern kitchen wisdom as a North Carolina native, and her Asian culinary research commenced soon after college, when she was sent to northeastern Thailand as a Peace Corps volunteer.

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These recipes look phenomenal! There are authentic curries, stir-fries, rice and noodles, and sweets and drinks. Nancie’s a phenomenal cookbook author. Her recipes work and the instructions are clear. She’s a great writer. More than anything I love cooking her recipes because then I feel like my beautiful, sweet, smart, awesome friend is in the kitchen with me! Her Coconut Ice Cream ties in seamlessly with my summertime frozen treat recipe exploration.

Today I am sharing recipes for her Coconut Ice Cream and my Avocado Popsicles. I hope you enjoy!

Bon Appétit Y’all!

PS I have lots of classes, signings, and events coming up including Nashville, Lexington, Boston and Northampton, Massachusetts, as well as Weathersfield, VT and York, ME. Please check out my events page!

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Coconut Ice Cream

Makes about 2 cups

Here is the classic Thai ice cream that sweetens the hottest evening in Thailand’s upcountry small towns. It could not be simpler and it could not be better. You can jazz it up with flavors and additions in the modern manner, but in my opinion it is perfect as is. Thais love it sprinkled with chopped peanuts and served in tiny bowls.

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

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Avocado Popsicles

Makes 8 to 12 (depending on the size of the mold)

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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Coconut Ice Cream Recipe Courtesy of Simply Vegetarian Thai Cooking by Nancie McDermott, 2015 © 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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