Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Too hot to cook? Try making these cool treats for summer weather

Are we tired of cooking yet? I know I am. I yearn to be able to go sit at any of my favorite restaurants for a meal, a coffee, ANYTHING, without having to think about the coronavirus.

Yes, I know some places are open, but the social distancing, masks, gloves and disinfecting just changes the mood, y’know?

In reality, it’s too hot to cook now anyway. Let’s make popsicles/paletas/ice pops, even bolis, instead.

Basically, any agua fresca or smoothie can be made into an ice pop; what you must remember, though, is that you need some sugar to give your paleta a better texture and prevent it from freezing into a rock-hard ice cube. So if you just try to freeze pure juice that’s what will happen.

Any sugar will work: honey, coconut or date sugar, grated piloncillo, regular white sugar, even corn syrup. You can also make a simple syrup (recipe below) and add some of that.

Layering makes for pretty popsicles.
Layering makes for pretty popsicles.

For creamy pops, add regular or Greek yogurt to the fruit and sweetener; pudding mixes also work great. Layering makes pretty popsicles; plan what you’re going to do, prepare each layer, then add to the molds with enough time in between that they’ve frozen a bit, so the layers stay separate.

If you don’t have popsicle molds, there are many ways to successfully improvise, although I bet once you get into making them, you’ll want to “invest” in buying some. Small “Dixie” paper cups work well, with sticks inserted after they’ve firmed up a bit, and then you can just tear off the paper after they’re frozen.

In Mexico, bolis are made in narrow rectangular plastic bags, tied off at the top. Although I personally find them messy to eat, the bags are easily available at stores that sell paper goods.

Silicone ice cube trays work great; so do small recycled yogurt containers, with the sticks added after they’ve frozen a little. Liquids expand when frozen so leave ¼ inch or so at the top of your pop when filling.

How long it takes your pops to freeze depends on what they’re made from. To release popsicles from plastic molds, hold them under cold water for 10-15 seconds. You might want to release them all and store in a Ziploc bag.

Simple Syrup

  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup water

In a small pot, combine sugar and water; stir to dissolve slightly. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once sugar has dissolved, remove from heat and allow to cool completely before using.

Avocado-Lime Ice Pops

The avocado adds a luscious creaminess.

  • 2 avocados, pits removed
  • 1 cup (packed) mint leaves
  • ½ cup fresh lime juice
  • ½ cup simple syrup
  • Pinch of kosher salt

Scoop avocado flesh into a blender; add mint, lime juice, simple syrup and salt. Purée until smooth. Divide among 6 popsicle molds. Freeze until solid, at least 3 hours.

Minty Cucumber Lime Pops

  • 1 English cucumber, peeled and sliced
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 6 limes)
  • ½ cup simple syrup
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¼ cup fresh mint leaves

In a blender, combine the cucumber slices, lime juice, simple syrup and salt. Blend until smooth. Add mint and pulse until finely chopped. (Avoid blending the leaves too much or you’ll have a murky-looking) popsicle. Pour mixture into molds, freeze for 30 minutes, then insert sticks and allow to freeze for 4 hours or overnight.

Berry Yogurt Pops

  • 1½ cups plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. honey, divided
  • 1½ cups mixed berries and/or cubed mangos or peaches
  • ½ cup granola

Microwave honey jar 10 seconds or place in a bowl of hot water to soften. Whisk yogurt, vanilla and 1 Tbsp. honey in a large bowl. Fold in berries and/or other fruit. In another bowl, drizzle granola with remaining 1 tsp. warmed honey. Stir lightly. Divide yogurt mixture between molds, leaving about ¼ inch at the top. Tap molds on counter to get rid of any air pockets; top with granola. Cover molds, insert sticks and freeze until ice pops are firm, at least 2 hours. –epicurious.com

Double Chocolate Fudge Pops

These rich, creamy treats can be varied according to your (or your kid’s) taste buds.

  • ¼-½ cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. cornstarch OR 4 Tbsp. white flour
  • 2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 2 ½ cups whole milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla, almond or peppermint extract
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • ¼ cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Combine sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder and milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and stir until thick, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla and butter. Transfer to a heatproof bowl. Refrigerate until cool, about 30 minutes. Stir chocolate chips into the cooled chocolate mixture. Pour into molds and freeze until firm, about 4 hours.

Variation: for Café Mocha flavor, substitute 1 cup brewed coffee for 1 cup of the milk. Reduce sugar to ¼ cup. Use vanilla extract.

Try mango and tajín for a refreshing treat.

Mango-Tajín Ice Pops

  • 1 lime
  • 3 mangos, peeled and diced
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 Tbsp. Tajín powder
  • 2 tsp. sugar

Cut lime into 6 slices. Cut each slice in half and place 2 slices in the bottom of each ice pop mold. Set aside 1/3 cup of the diced mango. Place remaining mango, water, chile-lime seasoning and sugar in blender; blend until smooth. Stir in reserved diced mango. Divide mixture between 6 molds. Freeze 8 hours or overnight. If you like, sprinkle with more Tajín after removing from molds.

Janet Blaser has been a writer, editor and storyteller her entire life and feels fortunate to be able to write about great food, amazing places, fascinating people and unique events. Her first book, Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats, is available on Amazon. Contact Janet or read her blog at whyweleftamerica.com.

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