Shape matters and other popsicle discoveries

Shape matters 3
I made this avocado popsicle in a Tovolo mold. It’s pretty good. In fact, it’s one of my favorite flavors. The first taste is a little jolting — it tastes like a melty avocado, but sweet. That doesn’t seem right. It’s not what I expect in a popsicle. But after that it’s just smooth and delicious.

I made a few little avocado pops with this Zoku Mini Pop Mold, but they didn’t taste the same. Each mini pop is one ounce, and ends up being about the size of a cake pop. I realized after trying the same popsicle in two different shapes that traditional popsicle molds are tongue shaped, and they give you the best taste bud contact. Somehow when they are cake pop shaped, avocado popsicles taste a lot more like avocados and a lot less sweet and creamy — at least to me. For plain old strawberry popsicles, though, these were great.

Shape matters 8
We found a Zoku Single Quick Pop Maker on sale at our local Sur la Table, and made apricot-chamomile ice pops (also from Paletas) in it and then in the Tovolo molds, too.

Shape matters 11
The liquid was still a little warm when I poured it in the Zoku quick pop maker, but it froze in fifteen minutes or so, and the texture was perfect. The same recipe frozen overnight in the Tovolo molds came out grainy, with big flat crystals.

I started out freezing my popsicles in uncovered drinking glasses. The Sur La Table employee who sold us the Zoku quick pop maker told us that when freezing popsicles the traditional way — overnight in the freezer — covering them could give them a better consistency. I haven’t noticed a difference since I started using the molds that come with lids. Both the Tovolo molds and Zoku  mini pop molds cover the popsicles, and I still got one set of popsicles coming out grainy; other batches were great. The drinking glass popsicles were great, too. I wonder if freezing time and sugar levels have more to do with how they turn out.

Clearly I have a lot more learning and experimenting to do.


Popsicles 1
Paletas de fresa (or strawberry ice pops) in the back row and paletas de yogurt con moras (yogurt ice pops with berries) in front.

Paletas: Authentic Recipes for Mexican Ice Pops, Shaved Ice & Aguas FrescasPaletas: Authentic Recipes for Mexican Ice Pops, Shaved Ice & Aguas Frescas by Fany Gerson

When I was a kid and it was really hot out and our legs were sticking to the car seats, sometimes for a special treat we stopped at the nearest drive-in dairy for big sticks or orange creamsicles. Mostly we ate popsicles at home, though. It seemed like we always had popsicles in the freezer in the summer, and for while we experimented with making our own. We poured whatever fruit juice we had in the fridge into molds and later we flopped around the house sucking on them. Sometimes we just used water. The texture never felt like store-bought popsicles — orange juice froze funny with big flat crystals, other juices felt kind of granular, and the icicles (water popsicles) came out hard, like ice. But I like the memory of wondering what they’d be like and experimenting, and then eating them slowly while reading a book, trying to decide if I liked them or not during the long, boring afternoons.

When I grew up, I didn’t think much about the holidays and changing seasons until I became a mom. Suddenly, they seemed important. Rhythmic, seasonal sense memories seemed like a key part of kid life, and it felt like it was largely up to me to make them happen. For summer, I was going to make popsicles. Last year I ordered a couple of popsicle recipe books and looked at the pictures and fantasized. This year, I got out the blender.

I started with a book that had pictures of healthy kids eating fruit-studded popsicles out in nature. Right away I realized I should have been reading the recipes instead of looking at the pictures when I picked this book out, because it called for ingredients like wheat germ, quinoa, and flax seed. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have any fond memories of flax seed, let alone fond summer popsicle memories. I tried the most innocuous-looking recipe in the book: yogurt, strawberries, lemon juice and honey. When I gave one of the popsicles to my son, he rejected it and he has refused to try any round, drinking glass-shaped popsicle I’ve offered him ever since. I get where he’s coming from. They tasted like so-so smoothies, and they felt grainy.

Gavin thought getting the texture right might take sugar, so I gave away the first book (along with the bag of wheat germ I bought in an initial wave of optimism) and turned to Paletas by Fany Gerson. Most of her popsicle recipes involve simple syrup, which seemed like a good sign — and it was.

We tried paletas de fresa (or strawberry ice pops) and paletas de yogurt con moras (yogurt ice pops with berries) first. The strawberry ice pops tasted almost like homemade strawberry jam and they felt soft and smooth and right. I have fantasies of eating homemade strawberry popsicles with abandon, but the amount of sugar in these made them feel like eat-with-restraint dessert popsicles. Not exactly what I was looking for, but delicious.

The yogurt pops on the other hand were… less successful. Gerson suggests blackberries but says you can use any berry. I went with blueberries and left them whole. I knew in my head that when you freeze things they don’t taste as sweet, but it sunk in for me in a way I’ll remember as I was biting through those hard, tart little berries. I loved the yogurt base made with lemon simple syrup and honey, though, so I’m going to try them again, but next time I’ll blend whatever berries I’m using with powdered sugar (one of Gerson’s alternate suggestions) before stirring them into the yogurt.

This morning, we picked up strawberries and avocados at the farmers’ market.  I want to cut the sugar the strawberry ice pops in half to see how the texture comes out, retry the yogurt pops with blended strawberries, and then I’m going to make paletas de aguacate (avocado ice pops).

Hungarian Sunset

The drink without a name 1
Gavin invented a drink that uses Zwack (formerly known as Unicum) for bitters.

The drink without a name 4
It’s fruity and tart and mysterious.

To make it, mix together:

  • 1 part Zwack
  • 6 parts Jack Daniels
  • 10 parts citrus juice (two of our favorite combinations are orange and grapefruit or lemon and tangerine)
  • 2 parts simple syrup

Shake with ice.

Pour into a martini glass and add a couple of cherries and some cherry syrup.

The drink without a name 3

Dinner: A Love Story and Child of Mine

Dinner: A Love Story
Dinner: A Love Story is one of my very favorite cookbooks. The stories, tips and pictures make it really readable, and the recipes that fit different stages of family life are GOOD. The pork shoulder ragu recipe is my absolute favorite. The first time I made it, I served it up, took a bite, and saw that everyone else at the table–including my toddler who usually waits for me to feed him–had already tucked in and were eating with focus. People hardly talked until we were about halfway through our bowls. A couple of our other favorites are bean burritos with pickled onions and grilled peaches, which taste like peach pie without the crust.

One of the most helpful books I read about feeding babies and kids was Ellyn Satter’s Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense. Satter is a nutritionist, and after Child of Mine she wrote a cookbook to show people what she meant by family meals — recipes people could easily cook and serve that they would enjoy and that kids could enjoy, too. I enjoyed reading it and sampling some of the recipes, but I think Dinner: A Love Story makes the best companion book for Child of Mine that I’ve come across so far. They could pair well to make a great baby shower gift  (along with some frozen pork ragu).


We’ve been listening to songs and reading picture books about having chestnuts around holiday time, so I bought some, looked up a Martha Stewart recipe and we roasted them.

They were yucky.

It’s possible that Martha Stewart recipe wasn’t a good one, but also I think it’s possible that chestnuts are not going to be my favorite food. I’d been imagining something fatty and smooth and a little crunchy — something in the filbert or hazlenut or pecan range of tastes and textures. These were starchy and mushy and sweet like water chestnuts, but not in a way I liked.

I sat there thinking, “People will write songs about anything.” Then I remembered other holiday songs and realized that lots of them are about snow, and that I hate snow. I like it in pictures, but I don’t like being cold and wet. And then I realized that all these holiday children’s books with pictures of certain kinds of weather (snow) and certain groups of people (big gatherings of family and friends) and certain activities (sleigh rides and ice skating) and certain specific foods (chestnuts and plum pudding) were not things I necessarily needed to copy in order to give myself a warm holiday glow.

The thing to do to get that warm holiday glow was to do things I liked (and things that were available to me as options instead of pining away over things that weren’t).

When I first started reading Thanksgiving books to my little one and thinking about how the holidays were going to go, I felt depressed. Our weather is sunny. (Boring!) We weren’t going to have a big group of people this year. (Lonely!)

Then I started thinking about what my options were. We could go on a trip, or we could have an intimate holiday at home. I’ve never cooked Thanksgiving dinner by myself before, and I wanted to. If it was just going to be the three of us on Thanksgiving day, I could try all the recipes I wanted to try without worrying about having it ready at the same time or having the house ready for guests. I ended up excited about it, and we stayed home, and the food timed out anyway, and I felt a rush of pride and pleasure.

These yucky chestnuts a few days after Thanksgiving confirmed it for me. Warm holidays are not about checking things off picture book lists. They’re about doing things that feel good, and what feels good to me is not necessarily going to be what felt good to the people who wrote the holiday songs and picture books that I love.

Mummy cupcakes

Carrot cake mummies with cream cheese frosting, inspired by this picture on Pinterest

To make the mummies’s bandages, I used a #103 cake decorating tip. I used a star tip for the whites of the eyes and a #3 cake decorating tip and melted semi-sweet chocolate for the pupils, but next time I want to try using this tutorial for making googly eyes.


Wanda’s Carrot Cake

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Sift together:

  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt

Mix together:

  • 1-1/2 cups cooking oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups grated carrots — packed
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

Mix together well.

For cupcakes, place cupcake liners into two cupcake pans, and fill with batter. Bake at 300 degrees for 45-50 minutes. (When they are done, a toothpick poked into the center of a cupcake will come out clean.) Yields 24 cupcakes.

For a larger cake, bake at 300 degrees in a greased pan for one hour.

Cream Cheese Frosting

Mix together:

  • 1 lb confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 8-oz. container of cream cheese
  • 1 tsp vanilla
Frost cool cake.


Bloody Mary two ways

Two Bloody Mary recipes

Bloody Marys are a long standing Christmas morning Doughtie tradition, and we West Coast Doughties we make them two ways: the hard core Clamato version, which is a recipe handed down from Gavin’s mom, and the Spicy V-8 version, which comes from a friend of mine. One day, I may reach Clamato-level Bloody Mary enlightenment, but I’m a beginner Bloody Mary drinker, and the Spicy V-8 version goes down easier for me.

* * * * *

Bloody Mary (Clamato version)

  • 1 (32 oz.) jar clamato juice
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 oz. celery salt
  • 1/2 oz. Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 oz. lemon juice
  • Angostura bitters
  • Tabasco sauce
  • 1 tsp. onion juice (very optional)

Combine first four ingredients. Add Tabasco and bitters to taste. To obtain onion juice, squeeze 1/4 med. onion in a garlic press and use juice and pulp to get 1 tsp.

Mix all ingredients together with a whisk or spoon. Pour over booze and ice and squeeze a fresh lime wedge over the top. Garnish with a celery stalk.

* * * * *

Bloody Mary (Spicy V-8 version)

  • Ice
  • Vodka
  • Spicy V-8
  • Fresh bright green celery stalk
  • Tabasco sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fresh horseradish
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 lemon
  • Fresh pepper

Fill glass half-way with ice.

Fill glass 1/3 of the way with vodka.

Pour Spicy V-8 over the vodka to fill glass a total 5/6 of the way full.

Add a minimum of 9 shakes of Tabasco (or more to taste).

Add 1 tablespoon fresh horseradish.

Add 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce.

Squeeze juice from 1/4 lemon into the glass, then drop squeezed lemon into glass.

Stir with a fresh, crisp, bright green celery stalk.

Sprinkle with pepper.

Adjust to taste.

Originally posted on The DHX.

Chocolate chip cookies


Chocolate Chip Cookies (the Nestle Toll House recipe with a few notes)

  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour (My mom taught me never to scoop the flour out of the jar with the measuring cup, but to spoon the flour lightly into the measuring cup, and then to use a knife edge to brush any flour that pokes above the top of the measure cup back off into the flour jar. She also taught me never to pack the flour into the measuring cup.)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened (Softening the butter — getting it out of the refrigerator a few hours before cooking and letting it come to room temperature — makes a big difference in this recipe. They come out soft and thin, with chocolate chips poking out in little bumps, and they stay soft, which to me is chocolate chip cookie perfection.)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar (dark brown sugar is especially good)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • (This recipe also calls for 1 cup chopped nuts, I don’t like them so I leave them out.)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Sift or wisk flour, baking soda and salt together in a small bowl. Beat butter, sugars and vanilla extract in a separate large mixer bowl until creamy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in flour mixture a little bit at a time. Stir in chocolate chips. Put rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Platonic marinade

Coals on the barbecue
Hot coals on the barbecue

This is based on a James Beard recipe Gavin’s mom found years ago when he was a kid. They liked it so much, they called it platonic marinade, and it’s been a family favorite ever since. Gavin barbecued chicken for me with it when we first started dating.

Platonic Marinade

  • 1-1/2 cups canola oil
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbs. dry mustard
  • 1 Tbs. pepper
  • 1/2 cup wine vinegar
  • 1 clove (or more!) garlic
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice

Blend all ingredients in blender or food processor.

Marinate chicken breasts or steak overnight. (Flank steak works especially well with this recipe.)

Grill. Brush marinade over grilling meat, and, if you like, simmer remaining marinade long enough to kill germs and then serve as a sauce alongside the chicken or meat.


Originally posted on The DHX.