Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It just gets a little old, even for an ice-pop-loving-four-year old (or 38-year old, for that matter).
That age-old bell for ringing in the summer is a mere days away (I refer to Memorial Day weekend — the very weekend we thought was a great time to move — anyone dying to unload a moving truck next Saturday?), so it’s time to bring out the frozen goodies, the ideal afternoon cool-me-down. We will eat untold numbers of these icy sweets over the next few months, so we need to make sure we have variety, and that delicate balance between something being not horrible for you and yet also desirable, in the “treat” sense of the word.
Yes, there are plenty of boxed options out there. But anything made with “real fruit” and not much else is gonna put you out around a dollar a pop. I’ve never been praised as a math whiz, but I can quickly calculate that for a family with 3 kids, that could end up pushing $90/month. On popsicles. But making your own ice pops isn’t just about saving money; it’s about experimenting with flavors, using up over-ripe fruit, and involving your kids in some of the process. Since you have all the control over what goes in, you can use a little less sugar than what’s utilized in a store-bought brand, introduce your family to new fruits, or cater to a food-allergic family member.
The recipe for fruit pops is simple: take one or more ripe summer fruits or berries, add sugar, water, and a pinch of salt, and puree in a blender. Then pour in molds. If you make too much for your molds, you can refrigerate it for a day or so until your kids eat a few and the space is available. The options and flavors are limited only by your imaginations — almost anything liquid that you want to eat frozen on a stick. As with all experimentation, you’ll end up with a few duds. But the kids usually eat them anyway, and if not, you’ll know for next time — and it’s better than having spent $5 on a whole carton of disappointment.
Below are two of our favorites: mango pops and chocolate-coconut fudge pops. The mango recipe can be used with many other fruits, as long as the volume of fruit stays relatively similar — and feel free to add more sugar if a certain fruit needs it. And the chocolate-coconut has that fabulous soft-chewy texture of the fudge pops of our childhood — all without dairy or corn syrup, and with a subtle hint of coconut sweetness. These are a bit higher-maintenance because you have to heat the mixture to melt the chocolate (so a little planning ahead is necessary, but worth it).
So let’s ring in summer together next weekend. While you guys make the ice pops, I’ll be found here in a fetal position, compulsively popping bubble wrap and mumbling nonsensically about how we will live in our new house until at least 2035.
Bring me a spiked fudge pop if you get a moment?*
(makes 6-8 pops, depending on mold size)
- 2 ripe mangoes
- 3-4 Tbsp sugar, to taste
- 2/3 cup water
- 4 tsp fresh lime juice (lemon could substitute), or more to taste
- pinch salt
Peel the mangoes and cut into chunks, removing as much of the flesh as you can. Put the chunks into a blender, and squeeze the mango pits over the blender to extract as much juice from the clinging flesh as possible. Add the rest of the ingredients, and puree until smooth. Pour into molds and freeze.**
(makes 6-8 pops, depending on mold size)
- 1/2 cup water
- 6 Tbsp sugar
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 4 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 1 cup full-fat coconut milk (freeze the rest of the can for future use)
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Heat the water, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, and stir in the chocolate, whisking until the it’s melted and smooth. Whisk in the coconut milk and vanilla. Allow to cool to room temp (or cool by stirring over an ice bath), pour into molds and freeze.**
* As great as this sounds, it really doesn’t work: alcohol doesn’t freeze, so an ounce in a popsicle will leave you scooping a slushy out of your popsicle molds. (Update: my sister has reminded me that wine or champagne can be used with success.)
**When removing pops from molds, it helps to run warm water over the outside to loosen them before pulling.