There's nothing like an ice-cold treat to take the edge off summer's heat. Popsicles are the perfect answer to a hot day, and they're so easy to make at home. Best of all? You can flavor them with whatever you like. Go crazy.
Start with a liquid base: water or fruit juice work well, or try milk or cream for a touch of richness (a little yogurt or buttermilk will add a little extra tang). Then feel free to combine flavors for a custom pop. Mashed ripe summer fruit are a given, though you can also get creative adding a touch of fresh herbs (bright mashed mint, perhaps a touch of basil), chopped chocolate, even nuts. For a little heat, try steeping your base with dried chiles to give it extra punch.
Check out the recipe below for an icy-spicy cucumber paleta (Mexican popsicle). For other recipes, click on the photos above. Recipe ideas include blueberry, coconut, chocolate, cantaloupe and peach popsicles. Enjoy!
Total Time: 30 minutes, plus freezing time
Servings: 9 (3-ounce) paletas
2 pounds (about 2 large) cucumbers, plus an additional half cucumber, divided
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 dried New Mexico chile pepper, slightly crushed
1 teaspoon New Mexico chile powder
1 teaspoon cayenne chile powder
1 teaspoon salt
1. Place empty ice-pop molds in the freezer to chill. Dice 2 pounds of the cucumber into 1-inch pieces; do not remove the skins. Place the pieces in a food processor or blender and purée until smooth. Strain into a medium bowl through a fine mesh strainer, pushing out the juice with some of the pulp. You should have 2 1/2 cups juice and pulp. Set aside.
2. Peel the remaining half-cucumber and cut it into half-inch-by-one-eighth-inch pieces. Set aside in a small bowl.
3. Add the lime juice, sugar and crushed chile pepper to a small sauce pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the syrup from the heat and cool slightly.
4. In a small bowl, combine the chile powders. Strain the cooled syrup into the bowl with the cucumber juice, discarding the crushed pepper. Stir in the salt and one-fourth teaspoon of the combined chile powders.
5. Pour some of the mixture into each mold, leaving about a half-inch of space at the top. Stir several pieces of cucumber into each mold. Place lid on the molds and fit with the wooden stick. Place the molds in the freezer and freeze until solid, 2 to 4 hours.
6. Remove the molds from the freezer and run them briefly under warm water to loosen the paletas. Gently pull them from the molds and sprinkle the tops lightly with the remaining chile powder mixture to taste, if desired. Wrap the paletas in plastic wrap and return them to the freezer if not serving immediately. They will keep 1 to 2 weeks in the freezer.
Each paleta: 54 calories; 0 protein; 13 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 0 fat; 0 saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 263 mg. sodium.