There are those mythological kids you hear about who will chow down on cherries or get excited when they see eggplant parm on their plate. And then you have a kid who pretty much lives on dino nuggs and chocolate milk. But when your child wants something sweet for breakfast, you won’t hesitate when you use Yonanas. The kitchen appliance uses frozen fruits to create culinary confections that taste almost like ice cream. Eileen McHale, the brains behind Yonanas, explains how she took an idea and brought it to fruition — literally.
What were you doing before creating Yonanas?
Being from the Midwest, ice cream was something we had in the freezer and could enjoy as a treat year-round. When I got older, I had a culinary background; I went to cooking school which was always a dream of mine. I did catering and private chef work and I also spent 10 years working in the natural products industry helping to launch healthy brands into the space.
Yonanas was a project that my husband and I concepted 8 years ago. We knew there was something there, but like anything, it was an idea, a concept. We sort of toyed with it, and then it went on the shelf, collected a little dust, and then came off the shelf. We tinkered with it. In the midst of the economy crashing, having worked with that kids’ brand really gave me the opportunity to do more cooking and play in that space again.
I love how Yonanas comes with recipes. I think it helps parents know how to properly use the unit.
Yes, I think the idea was there but then people would stop when they realized that they needed to use frozen bananas. I knew that I was going to need to create some recipes to inspire ideas. Right now, we have an administration that says we need to be eating more fruits and vegetables. Everyone is getting on board with better health, in one way or another. This is just one fun way of getting your serving of fruits and vegetables, especially for kids.
Having done research in the kids’ space, I learned that by age 11, kids have already established their eating habits. If we can instill healthier habits earlier, you’re more likely to take them into your adult life.
In terms of design, what were the most important factors?
We knew what we wanted as an end product. Having worked in the kitchen I wanted to make sure that there were a couple of key components that were embodied in the actual appliance. Since I have every kitchen gadget under the sun, I knew that it needed to be compact so that it could be on your kitchen counter and not take up too much space. The cleanup had to be easy, and it had to taste good.
Let’s explain how Yonanas works.
Basically, you take frozen fruit and in a matter of seconds, you have what looks and tastes like ice cream. If you use regular bananas or strawberries, it’s going to come out like baby food. We’re pushing this as a frozen treat maker, but we’ve heard that some moms use it for making their babies purees, too.
For example, you can use 1 ½ frozen bananas and 5 small strawberries and it will taste like ice cream. The magic is truly in the technology. I have to say, as much as I had the idea, the engineers were the true brains behind this. It’s all about position, torque, speed — that’s the magic of it. if it took seconds longer, we’d get a different consistency.
I see that you’re using super ripe bananas for the recipes.
These are the bananas you’d use to make banana bread. You need to peel and freeze them first, though. Even though bananas are the number one consumed fruit, I still get asked, “Can I do this without bananas?” and you can. You can make sorbets with Yonanas. You can run any kind of fruit through it; there’s no limit. But if you have bananas that no one is going to eat, this is your opportunity to not throw them away.
And it’s different from using fruits and veggies for juicing.
I’m a big fan of juicing but cleaning up a juicer is one of the most tedious experiences that anyone can have. The cleanup is such a big deal because it’s so easy. When you use Yonanas, you get everything coming through, all the fiber, so that’s another benefit.
What’s the difference between Yonanas and a blender?
Great question. With my culinary background, I wouldn’t have spent the money or the time if I could have done this in my blender or food processor! If you put the fruit in a blender, you’re always going to have to add liquid for it to blend, because if you just put the frozen fruit in there, it’s just going to spin around. And if you use a food processor, part of it will start to melt and the other part will start to chunk together. Yonanas is a very different experience texture-wise.
Eileen, do you have a preference on the type of fruit that you use? Do you like to buy already frozen fruit or do you like buying fresh fruit and freezing it?
That’s a great question. I think that there’s a really great economic opportunity as well. For example, cherries and mango are in season now – they’re at their peak so they’re going to be at their sweetest and brightest. I think from a flavor standpoint that it’s great to go fresh and then freeze it. But so many people will say from a convenience standpoint, there are so many wonderful frozen fruit options at your grocery store. It’s really a preference.
One of my favorites is the PB&J. You use two frozen bananas with a half cup of frozen mixed berries. As for the peanut butter, you can drizzle it down the chute, or you can swirl it in the bowl afterwards. I’ll take a tablespoon and stick it in the ice tray. And once it’s frozen, I’ll drop a little block of frozen peanut butter in and it’s so simple. It’s also fun to make your own peanut butter blocks with your kids. Kids will feel like they’re getting ice cream for breakfast so they’re going to want to participate. It’s super easy and nutritious for everyone.
It’s been super gratifying when people will share their stories with me. “I’m diabetic and I’ve been searching for something like this,” or “I’m lactose intolerant and now I can enjoy a dairy-free treat.” I had an idea, but really, I had no idea that Yonanas would become what it is now. It’s not just an appliance — it’s an opportunity for so many people to adopt a healthier lifestyle that will be so good for them and their families.