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Chill out with iced desserts perfect for summer days and nights.

The beauty of frozen desserts is that they cool you down on warm days or nights while satisfying your sweet tooth at the same time. And the way I see it, making your own frozen desserts using ingredients you have in your kitchen saves you money, both on gas (because you aren't driving to the store to buy your frozen treat) as well as the $5 or so it takes to buy a box of something in the frozen dessert aisle.

Iced desserts tend to feature at least one of these ingredients:

  • A dairy product or a soy-based product
  • A fruit puree or fruit juice
  • Cookies or crusts
  • Chocolate

Think about all the things cold and sweet that we love to eat -- from smoothies to ice cream sandwiches to fruit sorbets to freezer pies. They all have something to do with dairy, soy, fruit, cookies and crusts, and/or chocolate. And aren't most of these ingredients usually on standby in your kitchen or pantry?

You can lighten frozen dessert recipes by:

  • Choosing lower-fat dairy and soy products.
  • Using more fruit to pump up fiber and nutrients.
  • Using less fat to make cookie or graham cracker crusts.
  • Using lower-sugar or sugar-free ingredients when possible.
  • Using chocolate as a garnish instead of the main ingredient (choose semi sweet or dark chocolate to increase the phytonutrients in the dessert).

When making graham cracker or cookie crusts for frozen pies, you can usually use a light margarine with half the fat content of regular. Or, you can use half the recipe's recommended amount of melted margarine or butter and then add a moist ingredient to make up the difference (liqueur, fat-free sour cream, light pancake syrup, flavored yogurt, etc.)

Many people don't think of smoothies as dessert, but on a warm night that cool and creamy mixture can certainly suffice, especially if you make it thick and serve it with a spoon. Smoothies are one of my favorite ways to work in a serving of three key nutrition-packed foods: low-fat milk, yogurt or soy milk; fruit; and ground flaxseed. They're also a cost effective way to turn leftovers into a flavorful chilled treat. Got a half carton of yogurt left over? What about that last cup of soy milk you want to use before it expires? Is that banana looking a little brown? What are you going to do with that handful of frozen blueberries left in the bag after the pancakes you made last weekend?

If you like the idea of a healthy homemade frozen dessert, clear some space in your freezer, because here are a few quick and easy recipes to get your summer started.

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