City Pulse

By Mrinalini Kamath

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It’s summertime, and with the temperatures sometimes soaring into the triple digits, it’s awfully hard to resist the siren-song of the Mister Softee ice cream truck.

Until one day when you can no longer button your slacks.

Rather than give into my first impulse of wearing drawstring pants for the rest of the summer, I decided to attend a demonstration of the Yonanas appliance, which claimed that I could have “frozen dessert anytime” and “indulge without the guilt.”

The Yonanas appliance is unlike anything I’ve ever seen: It’s not a blender or a food processor (though the sound it makes is similar to one), an ice shaver or an ice cream maker. The best word I can come up with is a made up one: it’s a squidgifier. It turns (squidgifies) frozen fruit into something with the consistency of ice cream or sorbet, depending on the type of fruit you use. And said fruit comes out tasting delicious.

Yonanas is the brainchild of Eileen McHale, formerly a personal chef and caterer in the natural/organic foods industry. Though never formally diagnosed with lactose intolerance, Ms. McHale says that from a young age, she “liked ice cream, but it didn’t like her back.” After years of having stomach issues every time she indulged, Ms. McHale began trying out different options that she came across while working in the natural foods business. After sampling a variety of soy and rice milk ice cream options which never appealed to her because they were either lacking in texture or leaving her with a strange aftertaste, she began experimenting in her kitchen with her blender and food processor, often coming up with things that were the right flavor, but not the right consistency – she wanted to make something creamier. After eight years of working on a prototype with her husband, Brian Machovina, a biologist who “thinks like an engineer,” they came up with Yonanas, an appliance which, unlike a blender, does not separate the juice of fruits and vegetables from their fibers and gives them a consistency similar to sorbet or soft-serve ice cream.

At the demo, I sampled two types of Yonanas soft-serve: Strawberries and bananas and then bananas with chocolate. Both were remarkably like soft-serve ice cream and tasty. While the name “Yonanas” comes from the fact that frozen super-ripe bananas (the type you’d normally use for making banana bread or pancakes) are the ones that provide the texture most like soft-serve ice cream, you can put a number of different types of frozen fruits or vegetables through the appliance with great results. At home, I tried freezing watermelon, “squidgifying” it and putting the resultant sorbet into the popsicle tray that Yonanas provides, studding the pops with non-frozen bluberries. The result was scrumptious (and pretty) sorbet pops. I next plan on making what according to Ms. McHale is one of the most popular Yonanas recipes, pineapple-mango sorbet.

In addition to being a boon to folks with dairy or waistline-related issues (for anyone who follows the Weight Watchers program, Yonana’d fruit= 0 points) Yonanas is also something of a gift to parents who have a difficult time getting their young children to eat fruits and vegetables. You can freeze vegetables, like beets or pumpkin and mix them with fruit in the Yonanas machine, disguising healthy foods as frozen treats. School teachers have told Ms. McHale of students coming to class claiming to have eaten ice cream for breakfast. Diabetics and hypoglycemics find it to be amazing, and folks with cancer going through chemotherapy who have to be on a low iodine diet of mostly fruits and vegetables find it nice to be able to have a treat they can enjoy.

The appliance itself is deceptively simple looking: It consists of four, easily cleaned, dishwasher safe, parts. When it’s together, it is child-safe, and making soft-serve or sorbet only takes a few minutes. You can add other, non-fruit or vegetable ingredients as well: freeze chocolate or peanut butter, if you’d like to add it to your dessert. The Yonanas recipe booklet includes recipes for mint chocolate chip, pecan pie and peanut butter and jelly desserts, among others. If you have a baby, Yonanas can serve yet another purpose: while putting frozen ingredients through Yonanas makes soft-serve and sorbet, putting non-frozen ingredients through results in baby food.

While Ms. McHale started out selling Yonanas on the Home Shopping Network last Memorial Day, huge demand led her to expand the venues where Yonanas is sold. You can now pick one up either online or in store at Bed, Bath and Beyond or Target. She hopes to have it in Macy’s and Dillard’s by the time the winter holiday season rolls around. The appliance retails for $49.99 and makes a good gift for vegans, the lactose intolerant or simply the person who is looking to eat healthfully without sacrificing taste.

Originally published August 2011
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