One way to beat the heat is ice.
Why not give ice a boost with homemade popsicles? They're easy to make and fun for kids of all ages. Plus, you control what goes into the mix.
Michele Mukatis, owner of Cultivate Health nutrition services, suggests using whole fruit in homemade pops.
"The more whole fruits you can use, the healthier they will be and the more filling and appealing since you aren't just getting a straight sugar rush as you would if you just used juice with no pulp," she said. "I also feel like using the fruit actually creates a texture that is easier to eat. Juice popsicles tend to get really hard, but the fruit popsicles are almost creamy as they start to melt."
And you can go beyond fruit.
"For those with a Vitamix or other high-powered blender, you can even puree the really healthy stuff like kale and other veggies into the popsicles," she said.
To start, Mukatis recommends blending fresh strawberries with lime juice and a little bit of honey. She says to experiment with amounts to figure out how sweet or tangy you prefer.
Then comes the freezing, and with that a variety of options. Mukatis says she used toothpicks as a kid.
"But there are so many fun popsicle molds out there now, it's worth checking with stores like Sparrow Hawk, Chefs or online to find unique molds for popsicles," she said.
Not in the mood to fool with toothpicks or popsicle sticks? Mukatis offers another idea for using blended fruit mixtures: Freeze them in ice cube trays and then add to club soda, lemonade or other summer beverages to add a little flavor as they melt.
If you prefer a creamier version of the frozen treats, try Cooking Channel's celebrity chefs Debi Mazar and Gabriele Corcos' Tofu and Berry Popsicles recipe from their show "Extra Virgin."
Tofu is as versatile as sour cream, heavy cream, mayonnaise, cream cheese or ricotta, with fewer calories. Low-fat yogurt is another way to add cream to a popsicle recipe. The result is a luscious, silky pop, similar to the consistency and taste of ice cream.
Homemade Popsicle tips
- The base for pops is either water or milk (or other substitutes for dairy products) plus a flavor and a sweetener. Almost any ingredient, including dried fruits, nuts, chocolate and spices, can be added.
- Adding alcohol for adult pops is an option, but alcohol doesn't freeze so use it in small quantities.
- Most ice pops are fruit flavored, so use the ripest fruit you can find.
- Most ice pops are sweetened with granulated sugar, but you can use honey, agave nectar or other natural sweeteners. Keep in mind frozen pops will taste less sweet after they are frozen, but too much sugar will prevent pops from fully freezing. Follow a tried-and-true recipe for your first foray into popsicle production.
- Use a pitcher with a spout to carefully fill popsicle molds, leaving about one-quarter inch of room at the top for pops to expand as they freeze.
- Some molds come with lids with built-in sticks. Cover the molds with the lids after filling and place the pops in the freezer until frozen. If you're using molds that require a stick to be added, partially freeze the pops, about two hours, then slide the stick gently into the center of the pop. Return to the freezer until completely frozen, about three hours.
- For best results, place the molds in the back of the freezer where it's coldest. Unmold and store in freezer zip-lock bags within three days.
- To unmold ice pops, fill a container that is at least as tall as your mold with warm water (not hot). Briefly dip the mold into the water, about 20-30 seconds. Repeat dipping if the popsicle doesn't pull easily from the mold.
- Once unmolded, they are ready to eat. However, you could refreeze them to help the pops hold their shape a bit better and to prevent them from melting so quickly while eating. Wrapped well, they will keep for 3-4 weeks - if they last that long.
Fany Gerson, author of "Paletas: Authentic Recipes for Mexican Ice Pops, Shaved Ice & Aquas Frescas"
Tofu and Berry Popsicles
Yield: 6 servings
1/2 package (7 oz) soft tofu
2 cups strawberries or other berries, hulled and sliced
1/2 cup super fine sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Add the berries to a bowl and toss with the sugar and the vanilla. Let sit out for 20 minutes so they become juicy.
Add fruit mixture to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Add the tofu and blend again until incorporated.
Divide the mixture into 4 popsicles molds. Freeze until firm, for about 4 hours.
Source: Debi Mazar and Gabriele Corcos, stars of Cooking Channel's show "Extra Virgin"
Honeydew Lime Popsicles
Yield: 6-10 servings
1/4 cup superfine or regular granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1 (3 1/2-lb) ripe honeydew melon, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (4 cups)
2/3 cup fresh lime juice
Equipment: 6 to 10 Popsicle molds and sticks
Dissolve sugar in water by stirring if using superfine or by heating in a small heavy saucepan if using regular granulated (then cool).
Blend half of melon and half of lime juice in a blender until smooth. Add syrup and remaining melon and lime juice and pur? until smooth. Force pur? through a fine-mesh sieve into a 2-quart glass measure or bowl, pressing on solids and then discarding them.
Pour mixture into molds and freeze until slushy, about 2 hours.
Insert sticks, then freeze Popsicles until completely hardened, at least 6 hours.
Source: Gourmet magazine
Firecracker Ice Pops
Yield: 10 servings
1/2 pound strawberries, hulled and quartered (1 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 pound blueberries (1 1/2 cup)
1 1/4 cup low-fat plain yogurt
In a food processor, puree strawberries with 1 tablespoon sugar. Transfer to a small bowl.
In processor, puree blueberries with 1 tablespoon sugar.
In another small bowl, whisk together yogurt and 2 tablespoons sugar.
Pour the 3 mixtures, alternating, into 10 3-ounce ice-pop molds, making 3 to 5 layers in each.
With a skewer or thin-bladed knife, swirl mixtures together in an up-and-down motion.
Insert ice-pop sticks and freeze until solid, 2 1/2 to 3 hours (or up to 1 week).
Pi? Colada Ice Pops
Yield: 8 servings
3 cups chopped fresh pineapple (14 ounces) 1/3 cup well-stirred canned unsweetened coconut milk 1/2 cup water 3 tablespoons superfine granulated sugar 1/3 cup light rum Equipment: 8 (1/3-cup) ice pop molds and 8 wooden sticks
Pur? all ingredients in a blender until smooth, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large measuring cup, pressing on and then discarding solids. Pour into molds.
Freeze 30 minutes. Insert sticks, then freeze until firm, about 24 hours.