Cookbooks

Popsicles

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).

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).