I love summertime, but it's often so hot here in New York City that even your sweat sweats. Sometimes, I wonder if Brooklyn isn't actually located in a far corner of a volcano smack dab in the center of Hades.
If you add to that the lack of central air conditioning in most buildings, it's no wonder folks here are always finding creative ways to cool off.
In a perfect world, I would sit in a kiddie pool of artificial snow on my rooftop deck while a beautiful cabana boy fed me chilled grapes. Alas, this is not to be -- so instead I cope with the heat by indulging my inner second grader and eating all the cold, sweet goodness I can get my hands on.
What cold, sweet goodness you ask?
Let me tell you: I am all about the slushies, vegan ice cream sandwiches and caramel corn.
Do I eat them all at once? No. Well. Sometimes. All right! Yes, but stop judging me -- you don't know me. I'm grown, it's summertime, and sometimes you have to sit around in airy garments (i.e. your undies, a caftan, a snuggie made of mosquito netting and scotch tape) and eat cold treats so you don't melt into a puddle. No apologies and no shame.
I love to cook, but my Martha Stewart tendencies give way to Sandra Lee shortcuts when it's this hot. After all, the point is sweet, cold gratification, not DIY cred.
Let's start with the slushies, shall we?
They're so simple and easy that you can drop the ingredients in a blender, press the button and go stand in front of the box fan in your window while a kitchen appliance does the heavy lifting.
Enjoy that man-made breeze and send up a tiny thought of thanks that you don't live in the 1800s when you'd have to weather the heat in eleventeen layers of constricted clothing. Praise be to tank tops and tiny shorts. It's the little blessings that get you through the day when you are sweating down to the crack of your soul.
But I digress. Back to the cold beverages.
For the Slushies:
- a blender that's a champion with ice
- a tray of Ice
- 1 cup of water or juice
- fresh fruit or frozen fruit of your choice (I used 2 mangoes, 4 large peaches, 8 lemons and a quart of strawberries. Each batch of fruit made four large glasses of slushie delight. )
- 1/2 cup of organic cane sugar or agave nectar
Wash, peel, and cut up the fruit.
(Note: I cut the peel off the lemons, put them in the blender whole and strained them after blending to get rid of the pulp. If you have a juicer though, juice those puppies.)
Layer the other ingredients in the blender in this order: fruit, liquid, sugar, ice. If you use overripe fruit, you can skip adding the sugar. Turn the blender on high.
Fan yourself and curse the heat while you wait.
Pour and serve in chilled glasses with a straw or party umbrella.
You can get fancy with your flavor combos and layer them when you're pouring the drinks. You can also add liquor for a boozy version. Use gin for the lemon version and rum for the rest. (Must be 21 or older. Discretion is advised. Drink responsibly and don't be fooled by the sweet, fruity flavor. You will be drunk.)
Next up, the vegan ice cream sandwiches.
Who doesn't love an ice cream sandwich? Now if it wasn't hot as hell, I'd bake the cookies myself and whip up the faux ice cream out of coconut milk, organic sugar and a reduction made from the tears of fairies and angels. But the point is not to be fancy, it's to be quick. So store bought it is.
For the Ice Cream Sandwiches:
- a quart of dairy free ice cream ( I heart Tofutti, Soy Delicious and Rice Dream)
- a package of vegan cookies (I used Njoy Crunchy Chocolate Chip cookies. I prefer crispy to soft, but do you -- it's really a matter of preference.)
- A spatula
Pick two cookies.
Take a scoop of ice cream. Put the ice cream on the bottom of one cookie, gently pressing it so it will stick. Put your second cookie on top and gingerly smush them together.
Smooth the sides with a quick turn of your spatula. This would also be a good time to decorate them by sprinkling the sides with sprinkles or crumbs.
You can then stuff the whole thing in your mouth immediately -- or put them in the freezer for an hour or two to chill.
Beware the ice cream sandwich headache if you choose the former. You have been warned.
Here's a tip:
Some folks will say that warm cookies make for easier sandwich building. I tried both the warm and cold methods with better results with cold using non-dairy ice cream. Check out the finished result and decide for yourself.
Last, but not least, we have the piece de resistance -- vegan caramel corn.
I know popcorn is an unlikely cold treat because it involves the stove, but, dear one, you will just have to cope for the promise of crunchy, sweet and savory goodness. If you have a microwave or popcorn popper, you only have to hover over the stove to make the caramel.
I like making vegan caramel because it doesn't burn as quickly and isn't as high maintenance as the other versions. It's almost impossible to mess up.
For the popcorn:
- a hot air popper or a medium sized nonstick pot
- a bag of plain microwave popcorn or a cup of organic popping corn
- 4 tablespoons of canola oil (for stovetop popping only)
For the caramel:
- 1/2 cup of molasses
- a can of coconut milk (Light or full fat, you choose. The coconut flavor isn't as present in the end result if you use Light)
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Directions (stove top popping):
Keep in mind that stove top popcorn popping is an art form. You cannot be inattentive or you will have a pot full of freshly burnt corn sadness on your hands.
I share this knowledge with you from experience in the hopes that you will learn from my mistakes. If you know you're impatient and all short attention-span-theatre with it, do yourself a favor and make the popcorn in the microwave.
I won't judge you and you won't have those moments where you're crying and waving a broom at the smoke alarm. Everyone wins.
Place popcorn kernels and oil in the saucepan over medium heat. Shake occasionally after you hear the first kernel pop. Trust your nose and pay attention to how it smells as it pops.
There will be a burst of rapid popping and then the noise will start to slow down. Be sure to turn off the heat as the popping slows. Unpopped kernels will continue to pop as the burner cools.
I usually start my caramel at the same time that I'm popping the popcorn so I can alternate between shaking and stirring. Pour the coconut milk, molasses, and vanilla into a small saucepan and bring to a boil over a medium high heat while frequently stirring.
Reduce the heat once your caramel starts to bubble and foam. Be sure to keep stirring. It will start to thicken and will have a syrupy consistency. (Eventually.)
Voila! You have dairy-free caramel.
Now you only need a little bit for the popcorn. The remainder you can freeze or refrigerate for other heatwave snack-time moments. Let the caramel cool for a little bit -- because, hello, piping hot caramel.
Put the popcorn in a large mixing bowl, grab a large plastic spoon and combine the popcorn and the caramel by adding a little caramel a time until the popcorn is coated.
A little goes a long way and stirring is key. You can eat it immediately if you like it sticky. Or you can pop it in the freezer for 30 minutes if you like it crispy.
You can add a dash of bourbon or rum to the caramel while you're cooking it. You can also add peanuts, bits of candied ginger, or chocolate chips when you're combining the caramel and popcorn -- but that's only if you want to be fancy.
Now that your treats are finished, you can invite a few friends over to partake in the cold, sweet bounty. Or you can just enjoy it sitting in front of the fan while dreaming of blizzards, walk-in freezers, and the other cold places you'd like to be.
What are your favorite hot weather snacks? How do you keep cool and keep a smile on your face?