Growing up in Arizona, during the blazing summer months I’d wake up early, throw on my bathing suit, and run out the door at the first possible moment. Sometimes, I wouldn’t come home until dinnertime. We were a neighborhood of girls, all within a year or two of each other, each with younger siblings. My day would consist of running back and forth between various backyard pools, getting shooed away only when the little ones had to take naps. We were a rowdy, noisy lot and this minor inconvenience didn’t slow us down in the least. We’d just go to the next pool and continue in this fashion until it was time to move onto the next house or go home. I’d like to think the neighborhood moms coordinated their infant’s sleep schedules to accommodate our summer priorities. Sure they did.
Deeply bronzed with chlorine bleached hair and reddened eyes, we’d emerge from our intense underwater handstand contests for one sure thing: ice cream. If the tinny song of the ice cream truck reached our waterlogged ears, sheer chaos would quickly ensue. No matter how many times our mothers put 2 quarters on the table earlier in the day for this exact purpose, we’d run around screaming at the top of our lungs, in an ungodly panicked state. It was insanity every time.
For those days when the dreaded and yet beloved Ice Cream Man would fail to appear, my mother kept a freezer full of treats: fudgesicles, push-ups, popsicles and often my very favorite, Otter Pops. Little plastic sleeves filled with brightly colored, artificially flavored water with an actual Otter cartoon character on the sleeve. Otters. Who came up with that one? Regardless, I was adamant that they were better than Fla-Vor-Ice, Mister Ice or the numerous generic options. Of course they were. They were for OTTERS and they were in a BAND. (Just for giggles, click on the Otter Pop link above and read the “meet the band” profiles. Hilarious.)
We’d quickly eye the available assortment of brightly colored, icy sticks and grab our favorite. Blue and red were the most prized while yellow and green were always left behind with derision. And they were most definitely blue, yellow, green and red flavor, because colors were flavors in those days. The package may have said “bloo raspberry” but to us, it was “blue flavor” and I’m not ashamed to admit that it’s still my favorite. We’d scamper away, hopscotching across the hot pool deck, impatiently biting off the top of the plastic tube, deaf to our mothers pleas to wait a second while she grabbed the scissors. Cutting took too long and the stray bits of plastic in an icy mouthful added to the experience.
Fast forward several dozen years and I’m still enamored with freezer pops. They’re fun – you grab a cold stick out of the freezer, maybe sheepishly chew off the top because you still can’t find the scissors and gnaw away, pushing the contents up from the bottom, rolling up the plastic as you go to get every last bit, much like a toothpaste tube. In fact, I’m so enamored that I wondered if I could do these myself. Ice pop bags are very appealing and at this point my freezer is so full that there is absolutely no room for my standard popsicle mold. I could tuck these bags into every available corner and it wouldn’t stop my popsicle addiction in the least bit. This was looking good.
So I googled “ice pop bags” and per usual, Amazon had the answer. For the Memorial Day weekend, I tried them out. I pureed a mango, some pineapple and a big handful of mint, put the mixture into the bags and froze them solid. They kept the contents of my cooler nice and cold and though they defrosted during the long drive, I popped them back into the freezer upon arrival and the next day they were perfect. No mess, no hassle. I can’t say the same for traditional popsicles, as much as I adore them. Popsicles just don’t travel well. Fact.
The only drawback is these bags are a pain in the rear to fill. At one point, I looked in disbelief as my counter became sticky and cluttered with a funnel, skewer, spoon, spatula, measuring cup and endless dirty paper towels. Good lord. But after a while I figured out a system – scrunch up the bag onto the funnel, pour the fruit mixture into the funnel and use the skewer to work it down into the bag. I filled them about 2/3 full then tied off the bag and trimmed the end. Since my mixture was on the thick side, this took a little bit of time. An annoyingly large amount of time. Filling a traditional popsicle mold is certainly easier and quicker, but I think the trade off in space and convenience is worth the effort.
Round two, I went with a mango lassi flavor in an attempt to use the last of the case of ripe mangos I couldn’t pass up. (Four bucks for a case? Into the cart!) A lassi is a delicious Indian yogurt drink, sometimes sweet, sometimes salty, that does a bang up job of quenching the fire from a spicy meal. I like to change up my usual smoothie by working in a lassi here and there and thought it would be delightful frozen. I was right. I am also apparently not the first person to have this idea. Oh well.
As mentioned, I bought these ice pop bags on Amazon and while they also sell a heat sealer to seal up the ends, I easily tied them off with no problem. They also have another type with a zip top that might be helpful but they’re pricey and I’m cheap.
Quick tip on choosing ripe mangoes: I’m often asked how to tell if a mango is ripe. Like many fruits your key indicator is visual. You want a mango that is bright yellow/orange/red all over and is slightly soft to the touch. Any green and it’s not quite there. Another good tip I learned from an Indian friend is look at them stem end for what looks like little beads of sap. If the mango is wrinkled, soft or feels mushy, put it back. If it’s hard as a rock, green with a touch of red, that sucker is never going to ripen on your counter. Check out the pineapples instead.
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: GOOD BUT TWO FOLD. There are numerous benefits to having a stash of pops in the freezer. 1) They make the ideal summer snack. 2) Kids loooove them. 3) You can make your own, with fresh wholesome fruit, controlling the sugar and artificial colors/flavors. 4) The size/shape is really convenient; they fit in ever freezer nook and cranny. HOWEVER, unless there is some secret trick I’m not aware of, if your popsicle mixture is thick, these are a PAIN IN THE @#$ to fill. It’s really annoying but not annoying enough not to do it. Everything has a trade off, and I think this one is worth the trouble but know what you’re getting yourself into.
six years ago: Roasted Tomato & Asparagus Quiche
five years ago: Rhubarb Custard Pie, The Best Foccacia
four years ago: Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies, Banana Tarte Tatin, Late Spring Pea Soup
three years ago: Pear Frangipane Tarts
two years ago: Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Vanilla Cardamom Roasted Rhubarb
last year: Guinness Crème Anglaise
other popsicle recipes: Avocado Tequila Popsicles, Mexican Chocolate Pudding Pops, Strawberry Hibiscus Popsicles, Homemade Creamsicles
MANGO LASSI FREEZER POPS
Makes 6 freezer pops depending on the bag size and how much they’re filled
Though the honey is optional, it really rounds out the flavor and helps the pops from becoming too icy. Of course you can fill traditional popsicle molds or even run this through your ice cream maker. These are best enjoyed when they’ve had a chance to soften slightly – give them about 5 minutes before eating if you can.
4 cups cubed fresh, ripe mango (approx 1 ½ pounds) – from 3 mangos (approx 3-2 ½ pounds whole)
1 cup Greek yogurt, full fat greatly preferred (8 ½ ounces)
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 Tablespoon mild honey, such as clover
pinch of kosher salt
- To cut a fresh mango: with a sharp paring knife, remove the peel from the fruit.
- A mango pit is shaped life a flat football – you’ll notice your mango is slightly oval. Set the peeled mango on the cutting board so the pit is upright with the point toward you.
- With a large knife, such as a chef knife, cut the flesh just off center, avoiding the pit. If you hit the pit, adjust slightly to one side.
- Trim the mango flesh off the sides of the pit. (Cook’s treat! Gnaw the excess mango off the pit then discard. Only the cook gets to do this. It’s a rule and it’s the best part.)
- Cut the mango flesh into cubes and throw into a blender with the remaining ingredients – yogurt, cardamom, lime juice, honey and salt.
- Puree until smooth.
- Fill ice pop sleeves (or popsicle molds or process in an ice cream maker.)
- To fill an ice pop sleeve, insert a funnel into the bag and slide length of the bag up onto the funnel as much as possible.
- Pour filling into the funnel, using a wooden skewer to keep it flowing into the bag. Fill to desired amount and tie off the top – I usually fill about 2/3 full.
- Freeze until solid, several hours or overnight is best. I have best results freezing the pops on a sheet pan to keep them nice and straight.