As the temperatures spike above 100 degrees, how does a cool, sweet treat sound? This is a wonderful story and easy recipe from Mariah Chavez-Vasquez, one of my former nutrition students from Cosumnes River College, and exemplifies my mantra, “Love the Food That Loves You Back!”
During my years in high school, I really became aware of what I ate. I am Hispanic and grew up with very rich and heavy foods, most of which contributed to being a heavier child. I entered my freshman year as a vegetarian, in hopes of losing weight and in hopes of gaining more confidence. Throughout high school, I struggled with an “off and on eating disorder” which, until recently, made me very uncomfortable with eating almost anything. Within those four years, I saw how food choices were impacting my whole family. I lost loved ones to stroke, liver problems, kidney failure and cancer and it really hit home when both of my parents were diagnosed Type 2 Diabetes. Somehow, I still managed to graduate high school with a relatively healthy mind and body, yet very motivated to help my parents.
Entering college, I was able to change my choices and myself for the better. During my second semester, I took a nutrition class that changed my life. I realized that I was still scared to eat sometimes, but I really had no reason to be worried if I ate well. I learned to love food again as I began to stop eating food that didn’t help me feel great. I ended up cutting out all animal products, as well as coming to the conclusion that I want to become a dietitian. It was so exciting to discover a way to help my parents and my community make food choices that enable them enjoy their lives today and into the future.
It has been over a year since I shifted to a whole food, plant based way of eating and it is even more important for me to continue this lifestyle now as it was in the very beginning. It is actually way easier than I thought it would be, probably because I feel so great! I love cooking for my parents and my experimentation in the kitchen allows them to try a variety of tasty food while I know that eating this way will support their health. While I wish that both of my parents would eat “my food” for every meal, I have to keep in mind that this is definitely a work in progress. My dad has been able to almost be rid of diabetes with my help, but unfortunately, my mom is resisting a bit more and is close to needing insulin.
I love my parents so much and only wish that I could make this transition for them. I will continue to work hard to help them. I get frustrated sometimes because I worry about their medications have so many side effects and seem to just impact the symptoms, not the real cause of the diseases. When I talk about the power of food, they think that if they change their eating habits, they will have to give up the foods they love. This is where I am really having fun! When I get into the kitchen, I shatter that myth, as I am able to make plant-based versions of some of their favorite foods, such as tacos, stir-fry, French toast, and, now, ice cream!
I love chocolate and horchata, since I grew up with this traditional drink, so I knew that I wanted to bring those flavors together in a frozen treat. While some recipes use cow’s milk, horchata was originally made with rice or a combination of rice and almonds. I was delighted to see almond milk horchata at the supermarket, so I decided to use that in my “nice cream” recipe. As soon as I made a batch, I sent my nutrition professor an email to tell her all about it. The hardest part was waiting for it to freeze! The next day, I had friends over and everyone loved it so much that it was practically gone by the time they left! I hope that you enjoy this recipe as much as we do!
Mariah’s Chocolate Horchata Nice Cream
2 medium bananas, peeled, sliced and frozen
¾ cup water
¾ cup almond milk horchata (or vanilla almond milk plus ¼ teaspoon cinnamon)
1 Tbsp of peanut butter
1/2 Tbsp of cocoa powder
1/2 Tbsp of ground chia seeds
Cayenne (just a pinch!)
Dairy-free chocolate chips
Blend everything together in food processor or blender until smooth. Pour into a glass loaf pan, or other baking dish with high sides, cover with plastic wrap and freeze until solid. If you have the patience to let it freeze overnight, it will be very hard, so just thaw for ~10 minutes on the counter and dive in with your ice cream scoop! (Photo courtesy of Mariah Chavez-Vasquez)
Timaree Hagenburger, is a registered dietitian and certified health fitness specialist with a master’s degree in public health. She is a nutrition professor at Cosumnes River College, who conducts corporate wellness work throughout the area, and has a regular segment on California Bountiful TV.