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Better Than Halo Top: Homemade Strawberry Ripple Ice Cream

I tried Halo Top Ice Cream. I didn't like it. It was weird. I also don't like the idea of downing a whole pint of "ice cream" guilt free. That, too, seems like a strange concept to me. Don't get me wrong. I like ice cream. A lot. And truth be told, I used to eat a whole pint every so often in graduate school in lieu of dinner. I got out of class at 9:00 PM, the Baskin Robbins store was around the corner from the building where my class met, and, at the time, it seemed like a good idea. It wasn't. In addition to giving me an excessive amount of calories and an evening sugar high, the ice cream certainly wasn't "brain food" for the studying I needed to do. Even though the pint of Baskin Robbins seemed comforting, I would have been far better off making myself a sandwich or an omelet and having a small scoop of ice cream (hey, let's get real here, I get comfort from ice cream, not bananas!). If I had eaten more sensibly, I would have felt better, been able to study more effectively, and not wrecked my diet (such as it was then).

So, how does Halo stack up nutritionally? It has a lot of air in it compared to real ice cream, so of course it has fewer calories. Halo Top isn't a health food, despite the manufacturer's best marketing efforts--including that Halo Top has lots of protein and fiber. You really don't need extra protein in a dessert. That should come from your main meal, not a sugar-sweetened treat (and hey, ice cream has protein, fiber, and calcium, too!). The fiber helps "bulk up" Halo Top, so don't be fooled into thinking it makes Halo Top healthy. If you want fiber, add some fruit or whole grains to your diet. Halo Top also is processed with sugar and sweeteners--like Stevia and erythritol (sugar alcohol) that may lead to digestion problems in some people with sensitive stomachs. Rather than thinking that Halo Top is a healthy alternative to ice cream, consider it more in the vein of cereals like "Fruit Loops" or "Honey Smacks." The fruit and honey make them sound healthy, but they aren't. The vitamins the cereals contain are sprayed on, not organic to the basic ingredients. Similarly, Halo Top is processed and advertised to look healthy, but it isn't so much.

Now that I've burst the bubble of happiness about Halo Top being low calorie and good for you, what do you do when you want ice cream? My recommendation is to eat it but in small amounts. A pint at a time is too much, my graduate school experimentation being a case in point. I didn't feel all that great after downing a whole pint. A serving of ice cream is half a cup, although a cup is a more realistic measure of how much most people have at one sitting (unless they're spooning Halo Top up out of the container). A cup of ice cream probably is a gracious plenty for most people, particularly if they lead sedentary lifestyles. Plenty of options exist for lower-fat and reduced sugar ice creams, but I think the best are the ones with fewer additives and strange ingredients. I also like to make my own ice creams, frozen yogurts, and sherbets. That way, I know what's in them. Admittedly, making your own frozen treats is more trouble than buying them, but the homemade versions, in part because they are more work, are special and fresher tasting.

The ice cream I'm offering you below--Strawberry Ripple--keeps the fat and sugar reasonably in check but is, nonetheless, a treat. It's sweet, smooth, and tastes of fresh strawberries and cream. The ice cream also is simple to prepare--no cooking--and made with ingredients that are easy to find. Try it, share it, and enjoy it!

Homemade Strawberry Ripple Ice Cream

Strawberry Ripple Ice Cream -- Serves 6+

1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk

1 1/2 cups of half and half

1/2 cup of low-fat milk (1 percent)

1 teaspoon of vanilla

1/8 teaspoon of salt

1 pound of strawberries, washed and capped

2 tablespoons of lemon juice

2 tablespoons of sugar

In a large bowl, whisk together the sweetened condensed milk, half and half, milk, vanilla, and salt until thoroughly combined. Refrigerate the mixture for at least two hours. Combine the strawberries, lemon juice, and sugar in a blender (I use a smoothie maker, doing it in two batches) and process them until only small bits of strawberries remain. Refrigerate the strawberry mixture for at least two hours. When you're ready to make the ice cream, add the sweetened condensed milk mixture to your ice cream freezer and chill/begin freezing it according to the freezer manufacturer's instructions. When the ice cream is partially frozen, add half (about a cup) of the strawberry mixture and continue freezing the ice cream until it's ready. Remove the ice cream from the freezer container and swirl in the remaining strawberry mixture, creating ripples of strawberry puree in the ice cream. Put the ice cream in a freezer-safe container and place it in the freezer for at least an hour until it firms up. If you've frozen the ice cream overnight, you may want to let it stand on the counter for 5 minutes or so before you try to scoop it.

Homemade Strawberry Ripple Ice Cream

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