Simply put, I’m not my best in the heat. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty I love about summer. Fireflies, eating raspberries right off the cane, dinner on the deck, swimming at Joe’s Hole. Chatting with the neighbors in the yard at dusk, watching kids playing in the sandbox, mowing the lawn and plenty of sunshine to help our garden grow. I am fully aware that summer in this part of New England tends to zip by, and like everyone else, I try and enjoy it to its fullest.
But then there are the heat waves. The air just sits. There are funny, funky smells in the basement and bathroom. Everything feels sticky. Nothing dries -- bathing suits, towels, sneakers are all worn and re-worn perpetually damp. After a while, it seems, well, inescapable.
It’s this extreme heat that makes me shuffle about, trying to move as little as possible until it’s time to go for an evening swim. My husband reminds me to think cooling thoughts and we try and plan no-cook menus, or at least ones that can be cooked completely outside on the grill. The house is shut up tight with shades drawn every morning before we leave for the day and we watch the thermometer in the evening, waiting for that magic moment when the temperature outside dips lower than the temperature in, so that we can throw open all the windows.
But what about those times when you can’t head out to the nearest body of cool water but desperately need a break from the heat? Something we’ve found that helps is to take a minute to sit in the shade, take off your shoes and enjoy a cold, sweet popsicle.
When I was little, my mom would make us popsicles in the rounded Tupperware set that she had bought somewhere along the way. In the evenings my brother and I would often have to head back outside to retrieve the handle that had been left haphazardly in the sandbox or tree fort so that more pops could be made for the next day. Mom would usually make pops from orange juice, but as we got older we would make ridiculously sweet pops from all sorts of concoctions, usually with a base of iced tea.
About 20 years ago, most likely with fond memories of posicles in mind, I fell in love with a set of popsicle molds. Six stars held upright in a tray with yellow star-shaped handles, shaped to catch the drips of your melting pop. I couldn’t help myself and bought them to go along with my mom’s old Tupperware set. Homemade popsicles are fun and easy to make, and you can make an almost infinite variety of flavors, without all the dyes and fake flavors of commercial popsicles, leaving you to enjoy your icy treat guilt-free.
Don’t worry if you don’t have the fancy molds. I remember using (before the Tupperware, apparently) old-fashioned metal ice trays, the kind with the handle you pulled to release the cubes, and stretching plastic wrap over the top to hold the toothpicks in place that we poked through into the popsicle. You can also use small paper cups or mini baking tins.
There are lots of popsicles recipes out there. Here’s the one that my youngest daughter and I adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe that is creamy and delicious:
1-and-one-half cup yogurt -- we used Stonyfield Farm’s BaNilla
7 large strawberries
Half a banana
3 T sugar
Juice of half a lemon
Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until fairly smooth, pour into popsicle molds and freeze. Or, if you don’t have a food processor, dice the fruit (a little smushing is fine) and combine with the other ingredients. The little chunks of fruit are delicious and pretty. This recipe is a good base for you to experiment with whatever kinds of fruit happen to be in your house. This next recipe is adapted from Emeril Lagasse. It seems a bit more sophisticated and is dairy-free:
4 cups cubed and seeded watermelon
One-third cup sugar
One-third cup mint leaves
Juice of 1 lime
Puree all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Pour into your molds and freeze!
Remember: if you’re having a hard time getting the popsicles out of your molds, dip them into or run them under hot water for a few seconds. Clear liquids like water and tea freeze very hard, so if you don’t like that "ice cube" texture, try mixing with fruit purees or the like. But most importantly, remember to indulge yourself on these hot days. Popsicles certainly aren’t just for kids!
Julie Potter is a wife, mother of two, avid gardener and passionate cook who believes good food doesn’t have to be complicated. Share your thoughts with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.