Strawberries-and-Cream Pops

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Ok, I take back everything I said about turning on the oven during the summer being worth it. Being outside is unbearable as soon as you step out of the door. The only thing keeping me walking the dog is Pokémon Go. I just want to stay inside and lie on the couch and watch Netflix and read books all day long. At least, I think that’s what I want to do all day long, until my type A personality kicks in after about an hour and urges me to get up and go do something that’s somewhat productive. Like make popsicles with those super-ripe strawberries in the fridge.

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Over-ripe berries can be pretty gross if you were planning on eating them fresh. The strawberries get those little splotches on them; the blueberries wrinkle like fingers that have been in the pool too long; the raspberries practically liquify when you try to pick them up. However, as long as they haven’t passed over to the dark side and actually gone bad, they can still pack a lot of flavor. Just not a lot of texture. And this makes them perfect for whirring up into popsicles.

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I have tried many homemade fruit pops and never fallen in love with any of them. Here are my issues: if the recipe aims for a wholesome pop and hardly contains anything but fruit, I would rather just eat the fresh fruit than lick it in a frozen form. On the other hand, recipes that have too many other ingredients just dilute the flavor and don’t pack enough of a fruity wallop.

These pops were inspired by a Strawberry-Lime Ice Cream Pie published in Eating Well magazine; I had bookmarked it over a year ago but never made it, because I’m usually only cooking for two and need a party or a cookout to justify making a whole pie. The premise sounded pretty tasty though: strawberries puréed with whipped cream, vanilla yogurt, lime zest, and rum, piled into a graham cracker crust and topped with sliced berries. I wanted to take the same idea and make it into a single-serving popsicle.

Glancing over the recipe, it looked like it might not be strawberry-y enough, so I kept the amount of strawberries the same and cut back on everything else. I also reduced the strawberry purée into a delicious jammy goo just to be 100% certain that plenty of fruit flavor would come through. I removed the seeds with a fine sieve and used lime juice instead of lime zest because I didn’t want anything gritting up the texture. In the end, I got the creamy, tart, undeniably strawberry pop I’d be searching for. They are pretty sweet and fairly rich—it’s really more like ice cream on a stick than what I think of as a traditional popsicle—but they pair beautifully with lying on the couch and watching Netflix.

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Note: This is loosely adapted from Eating Well’s Strawberry-Lime Ice Cream Pie.



Strawberries-and-Cream Pops

make about 4 pops

  • 2 c. sliced ripe strawberries (about 3/4 of a 1 lb. clamshell pack)
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 1/2 Tbsp. white rum
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 c. plain Greek yogurt (I used full-fat)
  • 1/4 c. whipping cream
  1. In a small food processor, purée the strawberries until liquefied. Remove the seeds by straining the purée through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing on the solids to remove as much liquid as possible.
  2. Place the strained purée, sugar, corn syrup, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a bare simmer, then turn the heat to low / medium-low and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until thickened and jammy, about 20 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.
  3. Add the lime juice, rum, vanilla extract, and yogurt to the strawberry purée. Whisk to combine well.
  4. In a medium bowl—preferably one with a spout—whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Fold in half of the purée-yogurt mixture, and then fold in the rest of it. Stir with a whisk a few times if there are any lumps remaining—we’re not making a soufflé here; a few turns of the whisk isn’t going to ruin it.
  5. Pour into molds and freeze until solid. It helps to run hot water over the mold to loosen up the pops when you want to remove them.

 

 

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A (Peanut Butter and Banana) Smoothie for Non-Smoothie Lovers

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There is something about smoothies that makes me think of the Three-Course Dinner Chewing Gum from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It’s the notion of having a meal without consuming anything solid. In Roald Dahl’s book, if you chew Willy Wonka’s incredible gum, you feel like you’re eating whole a dinner, complete with roast beef and a baked potato. With the smoothie trend, there’s a similar illusion that you’re consuming a balanced meal, thanks to the handful of greens and scoop of chia seeds that you’re sucking through your straw. At least you don’t turn into a blueberry after you have a smoothie.

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When you have too many over-ripe bananas but don’t want to make banana bread.

I enjoy a smoothie every once in a while, but I have a hard time appreciating their popularity. First, the whole idea of drinking something substantial is not particularly appealing. Besides smoothies, when else do people drink their food? When they go on trendy diets, or sometimes after medical procedures. Neither of those situations is enjoyable. It’s undeniable that the act of chewing and eating makes food more pleasurable. Moreover, it lets us experience texture. Wouldn’t you choose a bowlful of thick, creamy yogurt topped with fresh, ripe berries over a homogenous yogurt/fruit/juice beverage? Or, let’s imagine that you get to choose between a gorgeous, fresh navel orange and….a glass of orange juice. Or between a cool, crisp apple and…a bowl of applesauce. Which do you choose? Almost 100% of the time, I’d choose the whole fruit over its liquified or puréed form. In a smoothie, juicy strawberries, firm pineapples, and buttery mangoes all get sadly blended away into plain old strawberry, pineapple, and mango.

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Second, let’s talk about that kale and spinach that found their way into your smoothie. I don’t know about you, but I’m an adult who likes leafy greens, and it’s been quite a few years since anyone has had to use any gimmicks to get me to eat my vegetables. Unlike my coworker’s son, whose peas and zucchini have to be diced into infinitesimal pieces and elaborately disguised in pasta sauces and meatloaves, I actually choose to eat vegetables because I like them. There’s not really a need to drink green veggies that taste like pineapple and strawberry when you’re getting enough in the salad you’re having for lunch or vegetable frittata you made for breakfast.

Lastly, I’d like to give the muffin (aka “cake for breakfast”) some company by embracing the smoothie for what it really is: a milkshake for breakfast.  Okay, okay—smoothies are not completely devoid of nutrition, and they can help people who don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables increase their consumption of produce. But they can also have quite a bit of sugar, and they don’t usually stick with you for a long time. So, when I make a smoothie, it’s not with the goal of adding extra fruits or veggies into my diet, or because I’m convinced that they’re nutritionally superior to other breakfast options. It’s because it’s hot out and I want a milkshake for breakfast. Or at least something cold, sweet, and creamy like a milkshake, but not quite as bad for you as a milkshake.

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The combination that I keep coming back to has banana, peanut butter powder, and dates. (Powdered peanut butter is kind of gross as a reconstituted substitute for the real thing, but it’s great for smoothies, or peanut butter pudding pops.) If I were in advertising, I would also tell you this smoothie has “no added sugar” and “more protein than an egg”! But honestly, the dates are really high in natural sugar, plus there’s extra sugar in almond milk if you go that route, and even though it has some protein, I’ll freely admit that it doesn’t keep me as full as things like oatmeal. However, none of that matters if you’re embracing the smoothie as a milkshake. Instead, you can just enjoy the classic peanut butter-and-banana combination in a cold, creamy, not-overly-sweet breakfast form.

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Note: You can use regular dairy milk or light vanilla almond milk. If you choose regular milk, it will make the smoothie creamier and increase its protein content, but it will be less sweet. If you go for light vanilla almond milk, the smoothie will be sweeter and nuttier but have less protein. I’ve never tried it with plain almond milk or fully-sweetened vanilla almond milk.


serves 1

  • 1 very ripe medium banana
  • 2 dates, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. powdered peanut butter
  • 1 cup milk, regular dairy or light vanilla almond (see note)
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract, optional, only if using dairy milk
  • 5-10 ice cubes
  1. One night to several weeks in advance: Peel the banana and cut or break it into chunks. Place the banana pieces in a plastic bag and freeze until solid.
  2. The night before: Pit the dates, chop them, and place in a container with a tight-fitting lid. Add the peanut butter powder, milk, and vanilla extract (if using). Put the lid on and shake to mix. Refrigerate overnight. (This will help the dates plump up and blend more easily, and it will make the smoothie a little thicker. If you skip this step, you could end up with unblended date chunks (if your dates are especially dry and/or your blended is especially crappy, like mine) or a slightly watery smoothie.)
  3. The morning of: Place the frozen banana chunks in a blender, then add the milk, date, and peanut butter mixture. Blend well. Add ice cubes and blend until you get the desired texture.

 

 

Baklava for Breakfast: Yogurt Bowl with Oranges, Pistachios, Walnuts, and Spiced Honey

I went to H-Mart the other day and geeked out because they were selling bags of blood oranges for $2.99. An entire 2 pounds of absolutely beautifully unblemished (albeit smallish) blood oranges for $2.99! I immediately grabbed a bag and put it in my basket. And then got home and had no idea what to do with them.

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Turns out that blood oranges are the fresh produce equivalent of high heels. I bought them because they were just too gorgeous to pass up, not because they were practical. I didn’t actually have a need for them. I was in love with the idea of them. When I got around to trying to use them, I had to admit that professionals make them look way sexier than I do.

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Despite its name being a blunt and obvious warning (hello, blood orange here), it’s still shockingly gory when you slice into one. The color and the juice make your cutting board look like a crime scene. I mean, red beets have nothing on these guys. And yet, I was still tempted to get past the mess and make something pretty with them. Haven’t you seen all of those Instagram photos where spectacular rainbows are made from translucent slices of winter citrus? (Yes, you have.)

These things are way too messy to eat out of hand, unless you don’t mind looking like you finger-painted with cherry Kool-Aid powder. Perhaps this is why I’ve seen plenty of drink and dessert recipes that call for blood orange juice, but not many that use the fresh fruit, which is what I wanted to do. Preferably over yogurt, because I could supreme the orange and mostly avoid the stained-hands problem. Also because a yogurt bowl with seasonal fruit sounded like a delicious way to get out of my cold-cereal breakfast rut.

I surveyed the kitchen for what else would work well with the blood oranges. In the fridge, we had pink Cara Cara oranges (thank you, Trader Joe’s). In the freezer: an arsenal of nuts (thanks again, TJ’s). In the liquor cabinet: orange flower water (thank you, husband who likes making fancy cocktails). I decided to go for baklava-inspired toppings: toasted pistachios and walnuts, and a honey drizzle with a little bit of orange water, cardamom, and cinnamon. No, there aren’t any phyllo crumbles, but it is a nice change from the typical yogurt bowl.

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Note: I call for roasting more nuts than you need because it’s a pain to roast just 2 tablespoons, and the extras will keep for a long time in a sealed jar. Also, adjust away. I recently discovered that I love mixing half plain yogurt with half vanilla because—for me—it makes the yogurt the perfect amount of barely-sweet for adding toppings. If you like your yogurt less sweet, use all plain; more sweet, use all vanilla. You could also increase or decrease the amount of honey.


serves 1; can easily be doubled, tripled, etc

  • 1/4 c. raw pistachios
  • 1/4 c. raw walnuts
  • about 1/3 c. (or 1/2 an individual-serving container) plain Greek yogurt (I’m partial to Fage 2%)
  • about 1/3 c. (or 1/2 an individual-serving container) vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1 small blood orange
  • 1 small navel orange, I used pink Cara Cara
  • 1/2 Tbsp. honey
  • the tiniest pinch of ground cinnamon
  • the tiniest pinch of ground cardamom
  • a tiny pinch of table salt
  • a few drops of orange flower water
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Roast the nuts until fragrant, about 6 minutes. Let cool completely, and then chop. Transfer to an airtight container.
  2. Mix the yogurts together in a cereal bowl.
  3. Over another small bowl, supreme both of the oranges: First, trim the top and bottom. Next, cutting from top to bottom, trim all of the pith away. Finally, remove the sections by slicing next to each membrane; the sections should easily pop out. Remove any seeds you come across.
  4. Put the honey in a small microwave-safe bowl. Heat it for 5 seconds or so, just long enough to get it thin and barely warm, which makes it easier to mix and pour. Add the cinnamon, cardamom, salt, and orange flower water. Taste, and adjust the seasonings to your liking.
  5. If you want your yogurt to stay thicker, remove the orange segments from their bowl and place them on top of the yogurt. (And then drink the juice that collected at the bottom of the bowl! Yum!) If you like your yogurt thinner, just dump the orange slices and their accumulated juices on top of the yogurt. Top with 2 tablespoons of the chopped nuts, and drizzle with the honey.