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I am a Popsicle addict. I eat sugar-free ice pops year ‘round, stepping up consumption in the summer to a couple of dozen a week. My current favorites are Aldi’s Sundae Shoppe sugar-free Junior Pops in watermelon, raspberry, cherry and lime. At just 20 calories, they are a fairly low-guilt snack.
Still, I yearn for ice pops that are more than just good. I want fabulous. I want a Popsmith blueberry-lavender or rhubarb-ginger frozen treat. I want a pop that tastes like frozen strawberries on a stick.
Unfortunately, Tim and Beth Knorr, who sell their luscious Popsmith ice pops at local farmers markets, don’t make sugar-free treats. So I decided to make my own after finding gorgeous, six-ounce pop molds at T.J. Maxx.
Recipes in books and on the Internet didn’t help. The most popular recipe for homemade ice pops is made with sweetened, condensed milk, which is as sugar-dense as a piece of fudge.
Because sugar helps soften the texture of frozen liquids, I knew I needed a substitute texturizing agent. I chose two: a smidgeon of cream cheese and a dash of instant tapioca. I used the tapioca to thicken skim milk that I mashed with the cream cheese and strawberries in a bowl. I used a potato masher instead of a blender or food processor in order to retain some of the texture of the strawberries.
The result is no Popsmith but it’s pretty good, especially if allowed to mellow overnight in the freezer. The texture is soft and creamy enough to bite, and the flavor is pure strawberry.
I have all summer to refine the recipe. Next up: Blueberry-lavender. Popsmith had better watch out.
CREAMY STRAWBERRY ICE POPS
Dice strawberries and place in a medium-sized bowl. Measure milk in a 1-cup glass measure and stir in tapioca granules. Bring to a full boil in a microwave. Let stand for 5 minutes to soften the tapioca. Return to microwave and cook on high until milk boils and the froth rises to the top of the cup. Let froth subside, then repeat. Remove from oven and let stand until tapioca has swelled and milk has partially cooled, about 10 minutes.
Place cream cheese on a small plate and microwave until very warm and soft, about 15 seconds. Scrape into the bowl with the berries. Mash with a potato masher until cream cheese is evenly distributed. Pour in tapioca mixture and continue to mash until the consistency is even but still slightly chunky with berries. Taste, then stir in sugar or sweetener to taste. I used 1 tablespoon of Splenda Granular.
Ladle into small paper cups or ice pop molds. Freeze at least 4 hours or overnight for the best flavor. If using paper cups, partially freeze before inserting craft sticks. Makes about 18 ounces of mixture.
There’s no need to ever buy ground nutmeg. It never tastes as fresh as nutmeg you grind yourself, and the flavor fades day by day. Buying whole nutmegs makes sense flavor-wise and money-wise, too.
Whole nutmegs keep forever, so you don’t have to worry about using them up quickly or throwing them out. One nutmeg makes a heck of a lot of ground nutmeg, so the whole spice is a bargain – especially if you buy it in the bulk-spice section of supermarkets or in an ethnic market that carries them.
Grating nutmeg at home is simple. I keep a miniature box grater with a whole nutmeg in my spice cabinet, and swipe the nutmeg over the grater a few times whenever I need some. Miniature graters about the size of your thumb are sold in most kitchen supply stores.
I’ve been enjoying fresh-ground nutmeg in vanilla protein shakes, one of my favorite summer snacks. I combine vanilla protein powder with fresh-ground nutmeg, skim milk and lots of ice in a blender and turn the ingredients into a healthful milkshake.
Nutmeg is rich in vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. In folk medicine it has been used to improve brain function, mood and as an aphrodisiac. Yeow.
From Judy R.:
I apologize for taking so long to get back to you with the Aloha Punch recipe. Here it is.
Dear Judy: It took me two weeks to find your email in my overstuffed In box, so obviously no apology is necessary. Note to readers: I met Judy while cooking at a farmers’ market. She mentioned the punch during our conversation and I asked for the recipe. She serves it laced with rum to adults and sans booze to children. It sounds like a great warm-weather house cocktail.
• 1 can (46 oz.) pineapple juice
• 1 can (12 oz.) frozen concentrated orange juice
• 1 can (12 oz.) frozen concentrated lemonade
• 3 bananas pureed in blender or food processor
• 2 cups sugar
• 4 cups water
Create an ice ring to float in the punch bowl with cut-up fruit, juice and/or rainbow sherbet. (You can fill a Bundt pan half full of juice, water, sherbet and fruit for the ice ring and place it in the freezer).
Mix all of the punch ingredients and freeze in 2 containers. Just before serving, slightly thaw mixture and put in punch bowl and add:
2 liter bottle of lemon-lime soda
Note from Judy: I have used all or part of the above recipe depending on how much I needed to make. The last time I made this recipe, I omitted the sugar and lemonade and used only half the water and it still tasted great. However, extra sugar came from the rainbow sherbet in the ice ring as it melted.
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