Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Homemade Ice Pops and a Product Review

It's finally warming up enough around here to make frozen treats sound refreshing again. In the past, I've used these Tupperware popsicle molds from my own childhood. I'm just now realizing how retro these are! They're even being sold as "vintage" on Etsy.
Does anyone else remember these? Our mom made popsicles for us all the time, usually a very fancy-sounding flavor she called "Tutti Fruti". Little did I know that "Tutti Fruti" basically meant "mix of random juices". They were delicious, and still are when I make them for my own children.

The Tupperware molds have held up beautifully, even after at least a couple of decades of regular use.
I still plan to use these a lot, and I'll be posting recipes for different frozen confections using these molds throughout the summer.

Today, though, I want to share what I've learned from trying out a new type of ice pop mold. A few weeks ago I bought these:

                                         


I was originally searching for something like this less for the ice pop factor and more because my kids really love yogurt that comes in a tube, especially frozen. I'm not much of a fan for a few reasons: 
  • Many brands have ingredients that I don't think are necessary to satisfy my kids. There are certainly some brands that are more "natural" than others, but many are highly sweetened and artificially colored.

  • They are too expensive. Yogurt tubes cost a lot more than yogurt in most other types of containers, and after having made my own yogurt for pennies per serving (though I don't do it regularly), it just doesn't make sense for us to buy them as often as we eat yogurt.

  • They have too much packaging for daily use. While convenient for traveling or certain other occasions, I personally feel a little guilty about the amount of garbage that comes from these tiny portions. I wanted a reusable alternative.
So, here's what I learned about this particular set of silicone ice pop molds:

The set I ordered came in a simple yellow envelope, and the tubes were packed in a plain plastic bag.
No paperwork, no instructions! But I guess I can figure this out. 
They looked great, but as soon as I opened the bag, I noticed a strong plastic-y or chemical odor. That was making me nervous. They are intended to hold food, after all.

Secondly, I was a little surprised at how large the tubes are.
The top opening measures 1.5 inches in diameter, and the fillable space is 6.75 inches long. Each tube holds 1/2 cup of liquid or yogurt, but you will want to use slightly less if you plan to freeze the tubes.

Hoping to get rid of the strong smell of these, I first soaked them and their lids in hot soapy water.
That didn't help much. Some, but not enough to make these keepers for me. Next, I soaked them for about 15 minutes in a vinegar and water bath. That didn't do much either. At this point, I was thinking I'd have to return this product and look for something else.

My last idea was to put everything into boiling water. I did this in batches, and kept everything at a full boil for three minutes.

Success! After everything dried, that scary chemical smell was gone, and I felt totally comfortable filling these with food and serving it to children.

I made a smoothie with frozen strawberries, mango, pineapple, peaches, and enough grape juice to make the blender move. 

I filled the molds last night, popped the covers on, and could NOT believe it when they didn't leak! 

I even filled a tube with straight purple grape juice and laid it flat on my counter to see what would happen. That didn't leak either! So I'm confident putting these in the freezer pretty much any which way without risking a mess.
The kids ate the smoothie pops for breakfast. We had to run the outside of the tube under some warm water for a minute to loosen the frozen smoothie, but after that it was easy to push up and eat.
I think my favorite feature of these molds is that if someone can't finish their pop, you can put the lid on and put it back in the freezer for later. No waste!

So, to summarize my unsolicited and unprofessional review, I feel pretty good about my purchase. I think they will definitely work for my family, and I would recommend them. Here are my thoughts:

Pros
  • The price was right. I got this set of 10 on sale for 12.99. They should be useful for much longer than it will take for them to pay for themselves, in my opinion.
  • They don't leak, so you don't have to figure out how to stand them upright in your fridge or freezer.
  •  The possibilities are endless for how to fill the molds. You can control the ingredients of your homemade healthy snacks or treats.
  •  The molds and their covers are very easy to wash. I've read that people put them in their dishwashers successfully, but I think they might fly around in mine, so I plan to hand wash.
  • For an adult or older kid, the pops are large enough to seem like a fair serving. I fit approximately 1/2 cup of smoothie into each mold.
  • You can put the caps onto unfinished portions for later.
  • Kids think they're really fun.
  • No garbage!

Cons
  • These smelled frighteningly toxic when I first got them. If I could not have removed the smell, I would not have used them.
  • The tops are so large in circumference that I wouldn't be comfortable with a younger kid (say younger than 4 or 5) putting the whole pop in her mouth and then squeezing up. It might be a choking hazard.  


Sunday, May 5, 2013

May in Wisconsin

A few months ago I shared photos of a beautiful February day here in northern Wisconsin. Perhaps you've been wondering about spring in our neck of the woods?

These photos were taken on May 3rd, the morning after a major snow storm closed schools in the area.
Very wet, very heavy snow still managed to drift severely here on the deck and in our driveway.
 Great for ninja punching, though!
 Two days later, on Cinco de Mayo, temperatures are warming, but there is still enough snow to build a whole family.
 Life size!
 The builder consults with the engineer....
 But now the sky is blue, the sun is shining, and these snow people won't last.
Maybe not even until tomorrow?