It’s been blazing hot this summer- miserable inside with no A/C, and miserable outside in the frying sun. But there’s one place the sun and heat are welcome- the beach! This month’s Recipe Redux (see below for more posts!) theme is healthy vacation-inspired foods, and at first, I was totally stuck. I couldn’t think of anything in particular that I’d eat on vacation that I could re-design. But, one particularly hot day, I took a spontaneous day-trip to Castle Island in South Boston. In 6 years of residence in Boston, I’d never been there, and it seemed like the perfect (free) thing to do to get out of the sweltering suburbs. I grabbed my new camera to practice taking pictures, but it was a gray, boring day, so the pictures aren’t very flattering considering how beautiful the park really is.
On my way down, I stopped at the Commonwealth Museum, which boasts some well-done exhibits about the history of Massachusetts, including one of the only remaining original Declarations. Very cool and completely free (even the parking was free)! It’s also in the parking lot of the JFK Library, so if you have extra time, I’d definitely recommend stopping there too.
I then made my way to Castle Island, which is actually both a beach and a park where you can tour Fort Independence, which does indeed look like a castle. Unfortunately, the fort wasn’t open when I went and the park was severely lacking in information without being able to go on a tour. I stayed and walked around anyway because the ocean breeze was so perfectly refreshing. I ended up getting in about 8000 steps while I was there- not bad for a vacation day! Naturally, after all that activity, I was getting hungry, so I stopped by the cute little beach cafe where they offer the usual host of fried foods (as well as fried clams because… Boston) and all kinds of ice cream. I went for the classic beach food- soft serve! I tried to take a picture, but it was so hot that the ice cream was melting before I even got out my camera.
Then it hit me- I could redux soft serve! I had just bought popsicle molds and was looking for an excuse to use them, so I decided to go for vanilla soft serve, dipped in chocolate shell, because that’s the only way to eat vanilla soft serve! My next challenge was figuring out how to make this healthy. I wandered around Whole Foods trying to figure out how to improve on froyo… not an easy task. For some reason, I was struck with the idea to make a vegan recipe. I’m definitely not vegan, nor would I recommend going vegan unless you are under the care of a dietitian or doctor to ensure you’re getting everything you need, like protein and B12. But it sounded fun! Why not share the joy of summer treats with people who follow restricted diets?
I ended up purchasing unsweetened vanilla coconut-milk yogurt (which is gross on it’s own, but perfect in this recipe), unsweetened vanilla almond milk, and maple syrup for the base. Obviously, these popsicles need some sugar, but not for the reason you’d think. Yes, sugar is vital to make a sweet dessert taste like, well, a sweet, but it is also necessary to reduce the size of ice crystals in frozen treats. Without enough sugar, you’ll get ice cubes rather than soft ice cream- I’ve made that mistake before! I went with maple syrup because it’s delicious, it’s already in liquid form (no dissolving necessary), and up here in New England, it’s local! For extra vanilla flavor, I also added some vanilla extract, but if you have vanilla bean, that would be lovely!
To add some fruit and satisfy strawberry soft-serve lovers, I decided to throw in some frozen strawberry slices. Of course, I couldn’t just ignore the chocolate shell, so I did some research and settled on a mix of carob chips, coconut oil, and a little more maple syrup. I have never used coconut oil and have definitely not seen enough research to recommend it, but it does have the properties needed to make a good chocolate shell- soft at room temp, solid when frozen, but still with a soft mouthfeel. If you make this as listed in the recipe, you will have a lot leftover… not exactly a bad thing! Just pop it in the fridge and remicrowave it every time you are craving ice cream or fruit with chocolate shell!
I don’t think I’ve ever made a more fun recipe- it’s the perfect, sweet, summer dessert that you can feel totally good about indulging in. It was a huge hit with my roommate! She had it as a post-workout snack, which this is actually perfect for, considering its high-protein and moderate-sugar content. And if vegan’s not your thing, feel free to sub-in regular dairy and chocolate. I think the Cabot Vanilla Bean yogurt would be particularly perfect in this recipe. But whatever you do, don’t leave out the strawberries! They soften up beautifully and add a tart little bite to the sweetness of the chocolate and vanilla.
- 1 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla coconut/soy yogurt
- 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1 cup sliced frozen strawberries
- 1 1/2 cup (about 1 bag) carob/100% dark chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- Combine the yogurt, milk, vanilla, and maple syrup in a large measuring cup with a spout.
- Pour into 6 popsicle molds, about 3/4 full.
- Freeze for 2 hours, until slightly stiff. Remove from freezer and slide strawberries around the edge of the mold until the yogurt mixture reaches the "fill-line". You may not need all the strawberries. Freeze for another 4-6 hours.
- When the popsicles are frozen solid, make the shell. Combine all ingredients in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring frequently, until completely melted.
- Dip each popsicle in the shell, place on a cookie sheet or plate lined with parchment paper, and immediately return to the freezer until rehardened. Then enjoy!