You’re the author of several books including Icy Creamy Healthy Sweet. How did you get involved with cookbook writing?
My background is actually in the nonprofit sector, and I refined my writing skills by doing copious amounts of grant writing. Shortly after marrying I moved to Rhode Island for my husband’s job. We knew we wanted to start a family, and I wondered if I could set myself up to work from home while my children were young. I began by freelance grant writing, while blogging and pitching magazines on the side about subjects that interested me, such as food, craft and lifestyle. When I started gaining a readership on my blog and started placing articles in top tier publications, I managed to connect with an editor who was interested in my work. That’s how my first book, Markets of New England, came about.
I’ve now published three books, and I no longer write full-time. Once my children were school-age, I went to work part-time in their independent school, in the admission department. I still write and photograph for publication, but only on a part-time basis at this time in my life.
What made you write an entire book about iced treats, in particular?
I tend to write about what I know and what I’m doing in my day-to-day life. When I began my writing journey, I had just moved to Rhode Island and it was my first time living in New England, so I began by exploring the local food scene, blogging and working on a farm. From there I began writing for Edible Rhody and a variety of other publications, always focused on food and lifestyle pieces. My first book, Markets of New England, came about because of all my exploring and documenting of the local food scene. My second book, Little Bites, was written when I had two small children at home and I wanted to find a way to make snack time nutritious. The book contains 100 recipes for simple, whole foods snacks that are seasonally-based and nutritionally dense.
From there, I began experimenting with desserts that were free from refined sugar. As my boys grew, I noticed that there was sugar in everything, and everywhere I turned, someone was trying to give my kids sugary treats. I decided that if I could make wholesome, healthful versions of these treats at home, my kids wouldn’t develop that dependency on sugar. So I set about creating popsicles, ice cream and a host of other fun desserts that used healthy ingredients, natural sweeteners, and were free from refined sugar. The recipes were such a hit with family, friends and the neighborhood kids, I decided to pitch the book to my publisher!
How hard would it be for children to make the recipes in your book? At what age would they be able to make them independently?
My kids have always been present in the kitchen, but I think around the age of 3 or 4 they really started being helpful. I can give them small tasks and they enjoy helping out. For example, stirring batter, measuring dry goods, washing produce or chopping with a kid-safe knife.
Once I trust them to safely use a blender, they’ll be able to make popsicles by themselves! With a 7 year old and 5 year old, we are probably a few years away from that. But right now, they can make popsicles easily with a bit of guidance and supervision. They also love using our shaved ice machine to make snow cones!
Can you discuss the ingredients you use in the book? They’re seem to be more wholesome than ingredients found in typical dessert recipes.
The recipes in the book rely on whole foods, meaning fruits, herbs, nuts, dairy products, and natural sweeteners (honey, dates, maple syrup, and coconut sugar). Many of the recipes are vegan and most are gluten free. You won’t find any fussy or strange ingredients used, and most of the recipes contain only a handful of ingredients. As a busy, working mother, I’m all about simple, easy and wholesome recipes. No fuss!
Do you recommend storing or preserving fruit for these recipes or does the fruit need to be fresh?
I do recommend freezing fruit when it is in-season so that you can enjoy my recipes year-round. Frozen fruit is also great to have on hand all winter long when making blueberry pancakes, smoothies, muffins and other recipes. I don’t tend to do a lot of preserving though, as my recipes use fresh fruit, which is then cooked down in a variety of ways.
A lot of ice cream recipes that use fruit end up with chunks of hard, icy fruit once frozen. Is it possible to avoid this issue?
Definitely. Using different cooking methods to soften and breakdown fruits is one of my favorite tricks for avoiding the dreaded rock-hard frozen fruit chunks. Throughout the book I roast, poach, grill, and simmer fruit in order to both bring out its natural sweetness and soften its consistency. Another way to avoid the issue is to soak fruit in alcohol. Because alcohol itself doesn’t freeze, it prevents the fruit from freezing fully.
New Englanders love their ice cream all year round. Are there any recipes from the book that would work well as we transition into fall?
There are some lovely fall recipes in the book, including Concord Grape Sorbet, Maple Pecan Crunch Ice Cream, Chai Ginger Ice Cream which pair deliciously with Gingerbread Cookies, Pumpkin Frozen Yogurt with Candied Pecans and Apple Spice Granita. I think of fall flavors as warming, and pumpkin, chai, ginger, cinnamon and maple are all very warm flavors. Despite the book being devoted to frozen treats, there are even a few wonderful wintry desserts including a crowd-pleasing Spicy Frozen Hot Chocolate!
The book, the layout, the photographs, etc. are beautiful. As an author, how much control do you have on the overall look and feel of the book?
Once you turn in the text and images, you have very little control over the look and feel of the book, besides what you might have discussed with your editor when you first signed on to the book or what you specified in your proposal. You can definitely make suggestions and give your opinion, but ultimately, the publisher decides on the final cover and design. Luckily, I love the look and feel of Roost books, which is one of the main reasons I signed with them for my book. I trust their vision. I was lucky enough to have designer Toni Tajima handle the design of my book. She’s responsible for the design of Vegetable Literacy, Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbook’s books, The Sprouted Kitchen, Manresa and many of the other most beautifully designed cookbooks out there today.
How did you test the recipes for Icy, Creamy, Health Sweet?
I am fortunate to live in Providence, Rhode Island, home of Johnson and Wales, which has a fantastic culinary program. I hired recent graduates to test my recipes, and I also relied heavily on a friend who had recently graduated from culinary school. All their feedback was incredibly useful and made me feel very confident in the recipes I was putting out in the world.
What’s your favorite cookbook and why is it your favorite?
It’s really hard to pick just one, but I am a huge fan of Amy Chaplin’s At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen. The author is such a source of inspiration for me, and her recipes really expanded my knowledge of plant-based eating. Her creativity is endless in the kitchen, and flavor is never sacrificed despite the focus on health. For me, that’s a huge win!
Thanks, Christine. This book is a keeper. Be sure to get a copy for yourself and get another for your friend. You can order the book by clicking here. Also, be sure to look for Christine’s work on Fresh New England – we’re proud to welcome her as a new contributor!