Vegan candy cane nearly "nice" cream

Christmas Eve! Night of anticipation and nutcracker sweet dreams. No sugar plum fancies around here, though. Chef F has been too preoccupied with visions of candy canes this holiday season to spend any time pondering what those might be.

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You know how cartoons depict desire with symbols beaming out of bulging eyes? Dollar signs and stars? You know what I mean. I could practically see candy canes dancing in Chef F’s glances throughout this month. They gave me more than one uh-oh, maybe we’ve restricted to the point of forbidden fruit moment, while at the same time stirred the teensiest little flash of pride. It’s hard to find the just right balance sometimes. Or always. One of those.

Of course we tried to create healthy candy cane edible art. Patterns of raspberries, strawberries and bananas; cherry tomatoes, radish and jicama. And we succeeded. They were delightful and delicious. But they weren’t the same. Sometimes you just have to give in. Dive in. Make candy cane ice cream.

There is a lot of fun to be found in this frozen peppermint explosion. There are also a lot of easy variations. First, the fun bits. One, using the meat masher. We do have a meat masher that has never seen meat. It may not have seen the light of day outside of the drawer in fact, until it got the satisfying job of crunching into candy canes. Another fun bit: observing how the candy canes infuse their color into the coconut milk, how the texture changes with low heat. And finally, “sneaking in” more wholesome ingredients, like banana in place of the intended maple syrup.

I would almost call this “nice cream”. Because, frozen banana. But there is a very big caveat. It has crushed candy canes in it, and they’re probably made of corn syrup. It doesn’t have to, of course. You could just use mint leaves and peppermint extract; but for us, this season, the candy canes themselves were the actual reason we made this in the first place, and the swirling pink was super pretty.

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You could make this much richer with the switch of a can. Take out the light coconut milk and swap in coconut cream. You don’t have to include the banana, either. The addition was kind of gratuitous. I was just thinking of how much we love minty smoothies of frozen banana, spinach, mint leaves and almond milk. And if you think about those lovely green smoothies, then you are bound to wonder, why not add banana here, in almost nice-cream, too? Just to stretch out the goodness with some goodness?

Could this be even tastier with coconut cream, maple syrup instead of banana, and maybe even some peppermint extract? Yes, probably. But if you knew a discriminating 5 year old chef would swoon with the lighter, “healthier” version, wouldn’t you go with that one? I did, and I’m pretty sure I’m going with it again next Christmas. Mmmm-mmmm-minty. Merry Christmas Eve, dears!

Vegan peppermint ice cream

  • 1 14-ounce can coconut milk (full dat)

  • 1 14-ounce can light coconut milk

  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, packed

  • 1 medium frozen banana, cut in chunks

  • 3/4 cup crushed candy canes, divided

Bring both cans coconut milk to a simmer in a small saucepan. Add the mint leaves, then turn to low and let steep on low approximately 15 minutes. With a wooden spoon, lightly puncture the mint so it infuses the milk. Remove from heat. Stir in 1/2 cup crushed candy canes and let cool.

When candy cane mixture has cooled, strain out the mint leaves using a fine mesh strainer and pour the coconut into a blender. Add frozen banana chunks and blend until banana is smoothly incorporated. Pour into an airtight container and place in freezer or fridge to chill, at least one hour.

When chilled, pour mixture into an ice cream freezer and process according to manufacturer’s directions. Serve with a sprinkling of remaining crushed candy canes, if desired.