Mango Red Bud Soft-Serve

Sometimes I'm not sure if I'm especially creative or just plain crazy. Last night I decided I wanted ice-cream. I was a good child, however, and decided that instead I would make some variety of fruit soft-serve. This was quickly whittled by memory of Dole Whip at Disney World to a choice for a frozen mango-coconut milk soft-serve. Yes, I realize Dole Whip is pineapple-based. Please don't ask me the correlation. I bought the ingredients, headed home, and came through our garage door past a red-bud tree.

The magenta blossoms caught my fancy. I wonder if you can eat red-bud blossoms, I wondered. I quickly googled the answer and yes, in fact, you can eat red-bud blossoms. That's how I ended up the following morning eating flowers in my ice cream for breakfast. I mean, there are definitely worse ways to welcome spring, right? After blending the soft-serve, I popped it back in the freezer for a little while. I was so happy with the tangy, fresh bite of the red-bud flowers. Reminded me of the wood sorrel blossoms we used to eat as kids. Of course if red-bud doesn't grow in your area, you can definitely use a different edible flower in its place or leave it out altogether. Still, isn't this a beautiful combination? I did kind of go around all morning hoping my google research was accurate and that I wouldn't keel over from poisoning and yes, I did hide the remainder of the ice cream so no family members would get poisoned if it was poisonous. I'm still here, though, guys. So red-bud is edible. And really fantastic in ice cream. You're welcome. The best part of this ice cream besides the beautiful aesthetic would have to be the fact that it is naturally sugar free (apart from the fruit sugars), dairy-free, and gluten free. I'm told that the red-bud blossoms add a powerful punch of vitamin C as well, so there you go. I totally would eat this for breakfast daily if I could. I can't wait to try new varieties of soft-serve beyond my classic chocolate-banana. Mango Red-Bud ice cream is my new secret weapon. I feel like I belong in My Side of The Mountain. Yay for foraging and not dying.

Mango Red Bud Soft-Serve Ice Cream
(serves 4)

12 ounces frozen mango chunks
1 banana
1/2 cup coconut milk with cream
1/2 cup red-bud blossoms

  1. Blend mango, banana, and coconut milk in a blender until smooth and creamy. Transfer to a medium-sized bowl and stir in red-bud blossoms by hand.
  2. Return to the freezer for half an hour or until you feel the ice cream is firm enough to scoop. Enjoy!
As always, before foraging for anything wild and presumably edible, be very very certain of your identification skills, okay? We don't need anybody dying of hemlock poisoning on my account, please. 

March Etc.

Winter came and left politely with not much fuss and not much bother for us. A snow day or two. Some slush. A few very cold days and a good many mild ones. Spring was well on its way before the calendar said so. In fact, the first day of spring was rather a disappointment, temperatures being in the mid-forties after we had experienced so many days of hope-filled seventies. Nevertheless, I went outside to capture a bit of springtime around the home. My herb bed is still asleep, save the lone narcissus bulb I planted in the far right corner after having purchased it from the Colonial Williamsburg gardens. Two new little piggies are promising more delicious bacon and sausage. Our burgeoning orchard is throwing its party best out of its spindly, newborn limbs. The family has been repainting the entire downstairs. All the colors because it has been butter yellow far too long. It is spring and we are grateful.

In Saveur Magazine this month, they feature my beloved Lake District of England. I went to sleep dreaming of it and woke up to the first day of spring feeling very English indeed. There was nothing for it but to put a biscuit-colored sweater on top of my overly-ambitious (for the weather) sundress and tote a cup of coffee around all day. Oh, Lakes. I love you already.

[ Tampa ]

Here's the thing about travel: it doesn't always come up to your expectations. And then sometimes travel really, really, really blows your expectations out of the Gulf waters. Take me and Florida. I didn't make much of an expectation for what Tampa would be like when I made plans to visit friends. Maybe it was my classic allergic reaction to liking what's popular or maybe I was just on a roll with "have no high hopes, have no hopes dashed" and it extended to the realm of what Tampa would be like. But oh my goodness, do I love Tampa now.

First of all, the weather. My traveling-buddy, Morgan, and I were ushered out of Virginia in freezing rain and welcomed into Florida with a solid eight days of the best of all possible weathers. Warm without being hot, breezy and sunny and utterly beautiful.

Then you've got Florida's peculiar brand of Spanish moss-clad trees cozied up next to palm trees and pristine white beaches. Walking on those beaches (particularly Siesta Key) was like walking in flour. By the time we left the beach, we felt like little powdered-sugar doughnuts, the sand was so fine and stuck to you so badly. I got a grand sunburn but it will tan off nicely, so I don't mind.

Third, we can discuss art: I was able to tour the Salvador Dali Art Museum in Tampa with a friend a day or two after our arrival. I hadn't known much beforehand about Salvador Dali and his art (beyond "Melting Watches"), so to be able to tour so many prime examples of his work and to see the exhibit paralleling the lives of he and Walt Disney and culminating at their friendship and work-partnership, was pretty amazing. What a great artist. There is so much to see and consider in his work. And can we talk for a moment about the stunning, picturesque clarity of his style? Many digital artists can't get that level of technique in their work, let alone do it with a brush.

Fourth, we'll touch on the food. Besides an emergency stop at Chick-fil-A and one lunch at Chipoltes, our friends made certain that we ate at new, exciting, or unique places while in Tampa. That being said, we spent a fortune on coffee and food, devouring the town as only real food-appreciators can.  On the way home, I listed my favorites in my journal:

A photo posted by Rachel Heffington (@lipstickandgelato) on

I tried some of the best sweet potato fries I've ever eaten. I tried conch fritters and had shaved ice for the first time. There were so many firsts on this trip alongside many favorites. Tampa is such an up-and-coming place. I wish it wasn't a fourteen hour drive because if it was as close to me as DC? You can bet I would be there in a flash, sitting on the UT campus watching rowers on the river. Rather than go on in words about Tampa, I'm filling the rest of this post with photos. And as far as food goes, consider that list full of my recommendations for places that should not disappoint if you ever end up hungry in Tampa!

we were forbidden to use the taco bell bathroom without purchasing a food item beforehand. cinnamon twists happened.

Tampa's pretty darn cool.