ice pops

orange carrot ice pops

Lately I’ve been trying really hard to stay away from foods with lots of refined sugar.

orange carrot ice pops | Brooklyn Homemaker

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!

orange carrot ice pops | Brooklyn Homemaker

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!
Ice Cream!
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.

orange carrot ice pops | Brooklyn Homemaker

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.

orange carrot ice pops | Brooklyn Homemaker

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.

orange carrot ice pops | Brooklyn Homemaker

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 | Brooklyn Homemaker

Orange Carrot Ice Pops

  • Servings: makes ten 3-ounce ice pops
  • Print
3/4 cups apple juice (I used fuji apples)
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.

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roasted peach and creamy vanilla pudding ice pops

I love homemade ice pops.

roasted peach and creamy vanilla pudding ice pops | Brooklyn Homemaker

I mean, let’s be honest here, I also love homemade ice cream and all things sweet and frozen, especially in the summer. Hot weather basically ushers in the season of icy frozen sweet treats for me. There’s something about a homemade ice pop though that just really hits the spot on a hot day. They also happen to hit the spot on a cool day, or a rough day, a stressful day, or a great day, a lonely day, or a day spent with friends.

roasted peach and creamy vanilla pudding ice pops | Brooklyn Homemaker

Making ice pops at home tends to be much easier than making ice cream and doesn’t require such an investment in special equipment. They’re also the perfect single-serving-size. Where eating ice cream requires a certain level of self control, you know you’re done with an ice pop when all that’s left is a clean wooden stick. Ice pops generally tend to be a little bit healthier too, featuring milk, yogurt, or fruit juice rather than heavy cream. So if you go back in for a second one, it’s okay, I won’t tell.

roasted peach and creamy vanilla pudding ice pops | Brooklyn Homemaker

Since milk, on it’s own, isn’t as creamy as the custardy base of ice cream, I think that transforming the milk into a pudding before freezing really improves the texture. I recently did this with chocolate ice pops with great results, so when I was trying to think of what to pair with peaches this time around I thought I’d give it a shot. Worked like a charm!

roasted peach and creamy vanilla pudding ice pops | Brooklyn Homemaker

I infused the creamy pudding with a healthy dose of vanilla bean and thickened it slightly with egg yolk to give it a rich French vanilla custard flavor. It makes the whole thing taste just as rich and decadent as homemade ice cream, and it’s a perfect compliment to the deep summery roasted peaches.

roasted peach and creamy vanilla pudding ice pops | Brooklyn Homemaker

Roasting the peaches heightens and concentrates their flavor and gives them a toasty caramelized depth. It also helps to soften them and make them easier to peel and puree, which is especially great if your peaches aren’t exactly 100% ripe. Pouring the different flavors in alternating layers ensures that each slurp of these pops is a totally fun and refreshing experience.

roasted peach and creamy vanilla pudding ice pops | Brooklyn Homemaker

What more can I say about these? They’re creamy, rich, decadent, & custardy. Their amazing vanilla cream flavor is the star of the show, and it pairs perfectly with the sweet roasted peaches. Just right for summer!

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roasted peach and creamy vanilla pudding ice pops

  • Servings: ten 3oz ice pops
  • Print
1 lb fresh peaches (about 2 to 3 large or 3 to 4 small)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons of sugar, divided
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch, divided
pinch salt
2 cups milk
1/2 vanilla bean, cut lengthwise
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 450. Wash peaches and cut them into quarters, discarding the pit. Toss in a bowl with lemon juice and 3 tablespoons sugar. Arrange, cut side down, on a parchment lined baking sheet. Pour any leftover liquid over the peach pieces. Roast for about 20 minutes or until peaches release their syrupy juices and begin to brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Once cool, remove the skin from each slice, which should peel off easily. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, whisk remaining 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, and salt. Add milk and whisk smooth. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean and whisk into milk along with scraped bean. Heat slowly over a medium flame, whisking regularly. Once slightly thickened and bubbling, cook for one to two minutes more before removing from heat. Place egg yolks in a small bowl, and ladle in about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of pudding. Whisk together, and return to pan. Whisk smooth, return to heat, and bring back to a simmer. Simmer for one or two minutes more and whisk in vanilla extract.

Pour a little more than half of the mixture (probably about 1 1/2 cups) off into a measuring cup or heatproof bowl. Add peaches and remaining teaspoon of cornstarch to remaining pudding mixture. Puree in the pan with an immersion blender or in the pitcher of a blender. Return pan to heat, bring to a simmer, and cook for one or two minutes more. Cool slightly before proceeding.

Layer vanilla pudding and peach pudding mixtures in ice pop molds. I use a mold with ten 3 oz pops, and alternated two layers of each flavor. Try to be slightly more stingy with vanilla pudding, and more generous with peach as you’ll have just a bit more of that.

Cover molds, add sticks about half way into pops, and freeze for a minimum of 4 hours, or until completely frozen through. Remove pops by running each mold under warm water for about 10 or 15 seconds.

cherry & chocolate pudding ice pops

When I was growing up, I used to suck my thumb.

cherry & chocolate pudding ice pops | Brooklyn Homemaker

I didn’t just suck my thumb when I was, say, 3 or 4 though. I sucked my thumb clear until I was 9 years old. Thanks to the wonders of orthodontic technology, you’d never know it to look at me, but it’s true. At the age of 9, I guess I’d had enough teasing from classmates, not to mention nagging from family, and decided it was time to quit. In the same way that some people quit smoking, I quit my thumb-sucking and instantly started eating and developed an obsession with food. I mean, here we are over two decades later, and I’m sharing another recipe for something I can stuff into my face.

cherry & chocolate pudding ice pops | Brooklyn Homemaker

A few years before I gave it up, I got pine sap on my thumb. I honestly don’t remember how old I was, or even how it happened, but I think I was probably about 6 or 7 and that I must have picked up a freshly fallen pine cone or something like that.

I remember that at this age I was well aware of the fact that I was too old to still be sucking my thumb, and that I should probably try to quit, but I was a stubborn little bugger and I wasn’t ready to give it up. I guess I should have taken the sap as motivation or a sign, but nope. I liked having my thumb in my mouth and I wanted to keep it there.

cherry & chocolate pudding ice pops | Brooklyn Homemaker

The problem with trying to suck your thumb when there’s pine sap on it is that pine sap isn’t all that palatable. It’s pretty terrible in fact. Think turpentine, but sticky and stubborn. It’s acrid, pungent, and intensely bitter with a distinct hint of evil poison from hell.

The first time my thumb went into my mouth, I ran into my grandmother’s house screaming and crying that my beloved thumb was coated in horrible sticky awful. Right away, she reached into the freezer and handed me a fudgesicle to help me get the taste out of my mouth while she tried to get the sap off my skin.
My father and grandfather were in the construction and masonry business and always had a big green bar of intensely gritty heavy duty pumice soap sitting on the sink in the laundry room. We went straight back there for a rigorous scrubbing with the Lava soap, but alas, the sticky stuff had staying power. Even with the visible signs of the sap gone, the taste seemed to be permanently attached to my poor little thumb.

cherry & chocolate pudding ice pops | Brooklyn Homemaker

That didn’t seem to keep me from trying to stick my thumb in my mouth though, and it also didn’t stop me from running to Grandma for another fudgesicle. Over and over. Thumb in mouth, awful taste, run to Grandma, fudgesicle. And repeat.

cherry & chocolate pudding ice pops | Brooklyn Homemaker

By the end of the day, the sap flavor may or may not have already been thumb-sucked away, but I knew how to make the most of a bad situation. I’m sure my poor grandmother must have gone through a whole box of fudgesicles that day, though my sister probably got a few of them too.

cherry & chocolate pudding ice pops | Brooklyn Homemaker

To this day, every single time I have a chocolate ice pop, I think of the sap incident. You’d think that the experience might have ruined chocolate popsicles for me, and that I might associate the flavor of pine sap with them, but lucky for me it didn’t work out that way. I guess my love of chocolate, and my love of stuffing my face, outweighed the sap-induced trauma.

cherry & chocolate pudding ice pops | Brooklyn Homemaker

Even now, as a full grown adult human, I can’t resist a good chocolate ice pop. I think the best way to ensure a super chocolatey and creamy pop is to start with a pudding base rather than something like frozen chocolate milk. To turn up the volume, and add something seasonal and healthy-ish, I paired these pops with fresh ripe sweet cherries. Cherry season is fleeting so I want to make sure I get my fill before it’s too late. To be sure they imparted some of their flavor into the pudding, I tossed them, quartered, right into the pudding base as it cooked and thickened on the stove.

cherry & chocolate pudding ice pops | Brooklyn Homemaker

The resulting ice pops are deep, dark, & decadently chocolatey.  They’re just sweet enough, with a thick, rich, and unbelievably creamy texture. There’s a nice subtle hint of bright red cherry flavor, but the fudgey chocolate takes center stage. Hidden in every few creamy bites, or licks, or slurps, or however you choose to eat these; there are bursting little bites of fresh jammy bing cherries. These are the perfect indulgent treat on a hot day, and while there’s something evocative of childhood about chocolate ice pops, the subdued sweetness and the addition of sweet cherries give them a slightly more mature edge.

cherry & chocolate pudding ice pops | Brooklyn Homemaker

Cherry & Chocolate Pudding Ice Pops

  • Servings: makes ten 3-oz ice pops
  • Print
3/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
pinch salt
1/3 cup Dutch Process cocoa powder
2 1/4 cups milk
1/2 lb sweet cherries, pitted and quartered
3 egg yolks, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan with a heavy bottom, whisk together sugar, salt, cornstarch, & cocoa. Whisk in milk, remove any lumps, and start cooking over medium heat. Add quartered cherries and cook until thickened and bubbly. Continue cooking and stirring regularly for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and gradually stir about 1 cup of milk into the beaten egg yolks. Add yolk mixture to pan, stir, and bring back to a gentile boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook and stir for another 2 minutes.

Remove pan from heat and stir in vanilla. Cover and cool for about 20 or 30 minutes. Evenly distribute pudding between 10 3-oz ice pop molds. Add popsicle sticks, cover, and freeze for at least 4 hours or until frozen through. Remove from molds by dipping into warm water or running under a warm tap for 15 to 20 seconds.

buttermilk ricotta ice pops with lemon, thyme, & honey

Okay, so it’s Summer.

buttermilk ricotta ice pops with lemon, thyme, & honey | Brooklyn Homemaker

But I think the honeymoon’s already over. Sorry Summer.

buttermilk ricotta ice pops with lemon, thyme, & honey | Brooklyn Homemaker

I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’m still into it. There’s so much about the season to be into. Parties and picnics and barbecues and day drinking and sunshine and long days and shorts and slip-on shoes and trips to Coney Island and fresh local produce. Glorious beautiful juicy ripe produce. Unbeatable unbelievable produce.

buttermilk ricotta ice pops with lemon, thyme, & honey | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’ve been so excited about the warmer weather and all the wonderful things that come along with it though, that I forgot about the things that I’m not so into. Unfortunately, now that Summer is upon us those unpleasant things refuse to be forgotten.

buttermilk ricotta ice pops with lemon, thyme, & honey | Brooklyn Homemaker

Sunburn and mosquitos and fruit flies and humidity and sweat stains and sleepless nights in sweaty sheets and days so hot that the plants just wilt against the force of the sun. To make matters worse, there’s something especially… yucky about this time of year when you spend it in New York City. Stale air and hot concrete and nights just as hot as days and stifling subway platforms and the smell of hot garbage on a Friday night. Ugh. So gross.

buttermilk ricotta ice pops with lemon, thyme, & honey | Brooklyn Homemaker

To help cure my hot weather woes, my red hot blues, I thought a fresh batch of ice pops was in order. Since I can’t actually live in the freezer, I figured that something sweet and icy straight out of the freezer would have to do.

buttermilk ricotta ice pops with lemon, thyme, & honey | Brooklyn Homemaker

They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and it’s totally true. I invented these ice pops because it was necessary for me to not go outside in the heat for groceries. I had a tub of ricotta in the fridge that needed using up, and since lasagna isn’t exactly hot weather food, I thought I’d give ricotta ice pops a whirl. From there I thought that lemon, thyme, & honey would be the perfect complements to sweet and creamy frozen ricotta, and that buttermilk would be an ideal liquid to thin out and pair with all that yumminess.

buttermilk ricotta ice pops with lemon, thyme, & honey | Brooklyn Homemaker

These ice pops are wonderfully cool and refreshing, but beyond that, they also have an amazing unexpected flavor. I will admit that the ricotta does give them a slight sort of graininess, but I don’t find it at all unpleasant. Maybe it’s because they’re so creamy and taste so rich without feeling heavy. There’s something almost cheesecake-like about them, but they’re somehow lighter and more sophisticated. The lemon and thyme are the perfect, dare I Summery, complement to the subtle sweetness of the honey and the cultured dairy creaminess of the buttermilk and ricotta.

You better eat them fast though because they won’t be around for long in this heat!

buttermilk ricotta ice pops with lemon, thyme, & honey | Brooklyn Homemaker

Buttermilk Ricotta Ice Pops with Lemon, Thyme, & Honey

  • Servings: about 10 3-ounce pops
  • Print
1 1/2 cups whole milk ricotta
3/4 cup buttermilk
zest and juice of 2 lemons
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, washed and stripped from stems
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt

place all ingredients in a blender and puree until very smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down sides of carafe as needed. Carefully pour mixture into ice pop molds, filling almost to the top. Place cover or foil over molds and move them to the freezer for 30 to 45 minutes. Remove, add popsicle sticks to each pop, and return to freezer. This keeps the sticks from sinking too far or moving off kilter. Freeze for at least 3 hours more, or until completely solid.

Remove from pop molds by gently running under warm water for 10 or 15 seconds per mold.