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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Finding Less-Expensive Substitutes, Pt. 2 (This Time I Needed a Substitute for Commercial Ice Cream)

When I was grocery shopping last week, I really wanted to buy a pail of ice cream for my family. This is hard. When I can't afford the treats for my family that I know they'd enjoy, I feel terrible. Anyway, with my senior discount, the 3-qt. pail would have cost about $4. I actually had a pail in my shopping cart for a minute, then I thought of something I could make at home, with the ingredients that I was already purchasing. I put the pail of ice cream back in the store's freezer and finished my shopping.

Fast forward a couple of days. You may know that I make my own yogurt from whole milk and starter that I've saved from previous batches. I had just made another 3 and 1/2-quart batch of plain, whole milk yogurt. I took some of that yogurt, along with vanilla extract, and sugar, and I made one quart of frozen yogurt. (Savings -- no heavy cream to buy!)

To make this, I pre-froze the chilling chamber of my Donvier. The next day, I strained 1 quart of yogurt until about 1/3 of a cup of whey had strained off. In a large bowl, I blended sugar and vanilla with the yogurt until it tasted right to me. Homemade yogurt can be more tart than commercial, so this really is a YMMV thing and needs tasting to see when the flavor is right. I followed the regular instructions on my Donvier until the frozen yogurt was the right consistency, then scooping it into a freezer container to ripen (firm up) for a couple of hours.

Real frozen yogurt is not quite like ice cream. It doesn't have the butter fat that ice cream does. And its tanginess comes through in the flavor. However, it's delicious in its own right.

I'm old enough to remember the first frozen yogurt shops in the US, back in the mid to late-1970s. There were usually 2 flavors from which to choose, and the toppings bar consisted of granola, trail mix, plus dried and fresh fruit. The frozen yogurt definitely tasted like frozen yogurt, and could not be confused with ice cream. But those of us wearing Earth shoes liked that this tasted healthier. We (or our parents) were already granola-eaters and sprouts-growers. A tart frozen treat was just about right for the times. Today, frozen yogurt shops boast 15 or more varieties, have toppings bars with candy and cookie pieces, and the flavor is much more like an ice cream shop than a health food stop. The usual set-up is serve-yourself. If one is not careful, a single dish of their sweet treat can costs a small fortune, ranging from $6 to $10 (or more as we've accidentally discovered).

My homemade frozen yogurt cost me about 90 cents a quart. I've made my own granola and strawberry syrup (from last summer's frozen strawberries) to top our dishes of frozen yogurt. I'd estimate a single sundae of homemade, from scratch fro-yo with equally from-scratch toppings is somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 to 40 cents.

This was indeed a pretty good substitute for my ice cream dilemma. I suspect that I will be making frozen yogurt a lot this summer.

A Donvier is a hand-crank, no-rock-salt-needed ice cream maker, popular in the 1980s and 1990s. I got mine as a wedding gift and have used it every summer since.


  1. Whoo-hooo, Lili! DONVIERS! LOL We got a fairly small one as a wedding gift, too (perfect for two people), and used it (year-round) for a couple of decades until the plastic crank broke. Then we stirred it with a spoon for a while, before finally giving up. Now we use a "Slush Mug" or I just put my husband's cocoa ice milk into a small stainless steel bowl in the freezer, and stir every 10 minutes or so until it's thick. That works okay, too, for any of you interested. We've also mixed semi-freddo (don't know what that means, actually, but that was what the recipe called it) in a glass Pyrex, and that worked fine, too.

    The price of ice cream is really, really high (short of an excellent sale) on anything of decent quality. Freezing your own also lets you control flavor, ingredients, fat content, allergens, etc., and I think gives a wonderful product. We've done fancy cooked custard bases, and we've done basically chocolate milk, frozen, with chocolate chips and marshmallows. It all gives our family a feeling of something that's a treat, but is very sensible and practical and cheaper, too.

    Glad you still have your Donvier, and could make your family a nice treat! (I remember the first frozen yogurt stores, too... a big hit in southern California at the time! LOL)

    Hugs-- Sara

    1. Hi Sara,
      Oh yeah. I'm a bit nervous that plastic crank will break someday. Sometimes, the mixture is just a little too hard and it feels like the crank will break. Keeping fingers crossed. But thanks for your suggestions, should it break. We have one of those slushie mugs. I think they're great for making slurpies.

      My mom's cookbook had instructions for making ice cream in a metal ice cube tray, the kind that the dividers come out. You freeze the ice cream mixture in the tray, then bread up into cubes and use an electric mixer to work some air into it. I've done something similar with my Donvier when the ice cream felt too hard and not very scoop-able. I used the hand mixer right in the chilling chamber (taking the plastic blade out first) and it worked pretty well.

      Your frozen treats all sound so yummy. Even the simpler versions were tasty, I bet.

  2. WOW! Lilli, this "old lady" of 83 just keeps on learning from you! I'm already green with envy about your rhubarb, blown away about rhu-sins and now this! Thanks, Sara, for the Pyrex bowl method as I have a small apt fridge. I have my thinking cap on!

    1. Aw, thanks, Shirley!
      I hope that you can use Sara's tip for making ice cream in your small freezer.

  3. I've never heard of a Donvier before. I Googled it to see what it was like. My husband inherited an old-fashioned hand crank ice cream maker and he likes to make homemade ice cream once or twice in the summer. He has experimented with different ingredients--while we buy yogurt instead of making it (so the taste would be different), I actually prefer the taste of the frozen yogurt over using heavy cream.

    My daughter made snow ice cream a couple of times last winter (we had a LOT of inclement weather days where the kids were home from school). I can't remember how many cups of snow it took, but our recipe called for snow, a can of sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla, and it was definitely a hit.

    I don't know if you have ever made a granita, but that's definitely a simple and inexpensive cold treat to make. I've made coffee granita before--it fills the bill when I want a fun coffee drink without spending a lot and without the calorie load you would get at a coffee house.

    1. Hi Kris,
      When I was growing up, we had an ice cream maker like what you and your husband have. We only used it a few times, but it was always fun to use.

      Is a granita like an ice? I'll remember that for this summer when I'm wanting a Starbucks coffee drink. Thanks for the suggestion!

      I make sorbet in summer in years that we have a bumper crop of strawberries. I'm waiting for the year that I have an abundance of raspberries for raspberry sorbet (my favorite). The snow ice cream must have been a fun treat in winter for your kids.

    2. I'm not sure what an ice is, so I can't answer that. Here's my recipe:

      Coffee granita
      2 cups strong brewed coffee
      1/2 cup packed brown sugar
      pinch salt

      Combine the coffee, brown sugar, and salt in a medium bowl; stir until the sugar is dissolved. Cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. Pour the coffee mixture into an 8 inch square pan. Cover tightly with foil and freeze until frozen along the edges, about 1 hour. With a fork, scrape the ice at the edges in toward the center. Repeat every 30 minutes, until the granita is semi-firm, about 2 hours. Use a fork to scrape across the surface of the granita, transferring the ice shards to 4 small bowls (or any kind of fun cup). Top with whipped topping if desired.

      I think it's the same idea for all granitas--I think a lemon granita would be really easy to pull off using lemon juice and a simple syrup, and it would be very refreshing on a hot day. Since I'm the only one who eats, this, I divide it into serving sizes and keep the extras in the freezer for a treat.

      I like sorbet, but have never made my own.

  4. I still have a Donvier and keep the inner container in the freezer all the time. Even though I rarely use it, I can make delicious frozen desserts any time I feel like it.

  5. I'm new to a Donvier, also. Your frozen yogurt sounds delicious. I don't remember the first frozen yogurt shops with granola, but I do remember my mother baking with carob instead of chocolate during the same time period.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      Sara's comment made me think that maybe the fro-yo places in the 1970s were a regional thing and big in So. Calif but maybe not a whole lot of other areas.

      On the subject of carob, I had a favorite candy bar that was sold in the nutrition section of stores. It was a mint and carob bar. Yum, so good! Carob is harder for me to find these days, and I don't even know if a bar like what I once had even exists, now. Your mom was so with the times, using carob in baking.

  6. Thrift stores sell ice cream makers (and breadmakers, yogurt makers, etc.) all the time. They look hardly used, some new in the box. I'm way too lazy to make my own desserts, so what I do is buy close dated yogurts (often found at warehouse clubs), and freeze them. They are eaten more as ice cakes, where the frozen top layer is scraped off with a spoon and eaten all the way down that way. In fact, my mom made homemade ice cakes from sugary syrups, like the ones used on commercial ice cones.

    I love your dessert from homemade yogurt, granola and syrup, all from scratch!! I pride myself when I not only find a cheaper, healthier substitute, but when I can do so from simple ingredients already bought around the home.

    Have a nice day,

    1. Hi YHF,
      I see the ice cream makers in thrift stores often, too. If my crank breaks (like Sara's did) I'll be checking out the thrift store makers.

      Your frozen treats sound yummy! Yeah, I get a good feeling knowing that I scraped together a great treat using basic, ordinary ingredients. There is so much than can be made at home using the ordinary.

  7. Looks great. I would need mine to be chocolate .

    1. Thank you! I was debating on chocolate vs. vanilla. I think chocolate will be next!


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