Lately I’ve been trying really hard to stay away from foods with lots of refined sugar.
I confessed a few weeks ago that all my baking and bundt-ing had me feeling a little lethargic and down, so I’ve been trying my best to eat a little healthier and concentrate on fresh whole foods rather than baked goods and sweets.
I’ve actually been doing really well too!
That is, I was anyway, until Lindsay over at If the Spoon Fits had to go and post this Orange Creamsicle Ice Cream recipe. There I was, minding my own business, eating fruit instead of cake, and walking home after work every day, when boom!
Irresistible orange creamsicle ice cream! During last week’s damned heat wave mind you, when I couldn’t have been craving something icy and sweet any more than I was in that exact moment.
Not wanting to completely undo all the good choices I’ve been making lately, I started thinking about what I might be able to make to satisfy my intense craving without actually busting out the ice cream maker.
I recently saw these juice ice pops at the grocery store that had me really curious. They were made with flavor combinations you’d expect to find at a fancy juice bar- apple, celery, & ginger; or blueberry & beet. You know, that kind of thing.
I figured that trying something kind of like that could be healthy-ish and tasty-ish. I’m sure there’s plenty of sugar in them but it’s like, natural and stuff. Right?
I didn’t want to copy the fancy juice bar flavors exactly though, so I started trying to come up with a flavor that would A) taste great and satisfy my sweet tooth, and B) not taste like a health-food alternative to something I’d rather be eating.
Suddenly I thought of something called “Orange Carrot Elixir” that I used to drink when I was a teenager. I can’t even remember who made it, and I’m not sure the company is even around anymore, but I used to drink the stuff by the gallon.
Growing up in a small town in Upstate New York, my exposure to new and interesting flavors and foods left a lot to be desired. Fortunately, one of my first high school friends with a car shared my desire to branch out and try something new, and rather than doing drugs or causing mischief, we and our friends used to drive around checking out grocery stores and searching for their “International Foods” sections.
We’d drink Mexican Goya sodas (I especially loved tamarind flavor), eat carob “chocolates” by the fist-full, wolf down whole baguettes, and munch on marinated canned octopus. We’d drive almost an hour to Ithaca, NY to go swimming, visit Indian or vegetarian restaurants, and browse the prepared foods section at Wegmans where I’d stare at trays of sushi that I was too chicken to try.
In the grand scheme of things the Orange Carrot Elixir wasn’t nearly as exotic as some of the other things I was eating and drinking, but I seriously couldn’t get enough of the stuff.
Carrots, in sweet beverage form! Mind blown.
I decided it was worth a shot to try to capture that sweet orange-carrot combination but in frozen ice pop form instead.
It actually took me a few tries to get these right. First I just tried pureeing whole carrots with orange juice, but the end result was bitter and pulpy. Then I tried peeling the carrots to remove the bitterness and juicing them rather than pureeing to remove the pulpiness. This was a start but the pops still weren’t sweet enough and the flavor was kind of flat and boring. Next I added a bit of fresh ginger for kick and apple juice for sweetness. Muuuch better but the pops still weren’t quite sweet enough, and were icy hard rather than bite-able and tender like store bought ice pops.
I did some reading online and found out that since ice pop manufacturers are able to freeze their pops much faster at lower temperatures that home freezers, some type of thickener like cornstarch or gelatin is needed to help give homemade ice pops a better texture. This also keeps the juices from separating before they freeze, and helps prevent the pops from dripping while you eat them. Since ice pops (and ice cream) are frozen, they also need a little bit of extra sugar because freezing-cold foods slightly dull your sense of taste. I went ahead and added juuuust a little extra sugar, and a little bit of cornstarch, and bingo! Success!
If you don’t have a vegetable juicer you can still easily make these at home using store bought juices. Most grocery stores these days (at least here in my neck of the woods) carry bottled carrot juice, so I don’t think it should be too hard to find. The only thing you’ll need to do differently is to add grated ginger in with the sugar and cornstarch, and then strain out the pulp just before pouring into your molds. I promise I tried this during one of my experiments and it worked great.
These puppies are TASTY! They’re bright and citrusy and summery, with just a touch of fresh spicy zing from the ginger. The carrot juice and orange juice are a match made in heaven and the apple juice just helps sweeten things up. They’re just sweet enough, with a really great bite-able texture, and the absolute last words that come to mind is “health food” or “diet”.
Craving satisfied. Officially.
Orange Carrot Ice Pops
1 3/4 cups orange juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
pinch of salt
zest of 1 orange
1 cup carrot juice (from about 2 lbs peeled carrots)
1 to 2 inch peeled chunk of fresh ginger (juiced with carrots if possible, finely grated if not)
In a medium saucepan, combine apple juice, orange juice, sugar, cornstarch, salt, & orange zest. If you don’t have a juicer at home you’ll also need to add your grated ginger now as well.
Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, whisking regularly to prevent lumps. Once the mixture has boiled and thickened to a citrus-curd-like consistency, remove from heat. Add carrot juice and ginger juice (if you aren’t using grated ginger) and whisk to combine. If using grated ginger, strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer to remove pulp.
Pour the mixture into ice pop molds (makes enough liquid to fill ten 3-ounce pops). If your ice pop maker comes with plastic sticks, insert now and freeze at least 4 hours or until solid. If using wooden sticks, cover the mold and freeze for 45 minutes to 1 hour before inserting sticks and freezing for at least three hours more.
To un-mold your pops, run them under warm water to 10 to 15 seconds each. Pops should slide out of molds easily and can be quickly refrozen and stored in a ziplock bag or individually wrapped in plastic wrap.