Popsicles are a summer staple, especially if you're a child. My 2-year-old daughter constantly asks for "Popacles" and sits with her brother on the patio, slurping away happily. However, we don't buy popsicles. If you've ever read the labels on many of the popular brands, well, they're downright scary. They have corn syrup, lots of unhealthy dyes, and chemicals and it's really just supposed to be flavored ice on a stick. Making your own popsicles is incredibly simple, and I've got some great recipes. For those of you who still want to buy some that are pre-made, I've got some better options, too!
My ultimate dream is a Zoku popsicle maker, which freezes super fast (popsicles in five minutes? Yes please!) and allows for some crazy creations. Alas, $50 for a glorified ice tray isn't in my budget right now, but if it's in yours, beautiful, healthy treats are just some fruit juice and slices away.
Even without the fancy gadget, though, a great place to start to make any popsicle is loading up on fresh fruit and natural juices (glass bottle juices from the organic aisle are often more concentrated, actually healthy, and work way better too), or you can make your own juice. Whatever floats your popsicle boat.
Have some kind of sweetener, if you want. Agave nectar and honey work best consistency-wise, but if you want to use plain refined, white sugar, boil it on low at a 1:1 ratio, 1 cup sugar to 1 cup water, for 5 to 10 minutes until you've made a sugar syrup. This prevents graininess in your pops (also great for iced teas!).
Also consider having a milk-base. Greek yogurt, coconut milk, cow's milk, or even ice cream make for rich and tasty flavors. Oils, like coconut oil, or a mashed up avocado can add some richness and creaminess that only makes your kids think it's super-bad for them.
Now that you've got the basics down, try these:
Avocado Fudgesicles from The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen
8 medjool dates, pitted
1/2 cup water
3 medium avocados, pitted
1 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup honey
5 to 7 tablespoons cacao or cocoa powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
Pinch sea salt
Soak dates in water in your blender for around half an hour, then add the rest of the ingredients and blend. The avocado adds a creamy, fatty-feeling texture that will make it seem decadent. Yum!
Lemon Creme Pops from Zoku
5 ounces Greek vanilla yogurt
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about two lemons)
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 ounces low fat milk
Zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons agave nectar
6 lemon slices (approximately 1/8 inch thick) optional
Mix all but the lemon slices together. Line molds with lemon slices, then pour in liquid. Simple, and tasty!
Want to free form it? Mixing just about any little chunks of fruit in some Greek yogurt with a little squirt of lemon juice and maybe a sweetener (unless you buy Honey Greek Yogurt to start) makes some amazing combinations.
If you don't want a milk-base, or just want some variety, try a bunch of juices. Don't feel limited to plain mixes either. We've done Simply Orange Mango juice, and even the V-8 Splash juices. Lemonades and limeades mixed with chunks of strawberries or cherries are amazing, refreshing, and healthy to boot, and very colorful. Heck, we had a tiny bit of green tea left that I poured into a mold, and I loved those! The limit is really your imagination. Breastfeeding moms, your little ones who haven't gotten into solids much? Try a breast milk popsicle or slushie!
If you really just don't want to make your own, look for Whole Fruit fruit bars, which, while not perfect, blow most store-bought competition out of the water easily.
The perfect summer pastime -- getting messy with colorful, tasty, fun popsicles -- doesn't have to be an unhealthy one either. And trust me, with recipes and ideas like these, your kids won't miss the chemically-laden brands one bit.
What's your favorite homemade popsicle combo?