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Natural Awakenings Twin Cities

Cool Treats for Hot Days: DIY Recipes Even Kids Can Make

Jun 30, 2022 08:30AM ● By Sheila Julson
Child sitting on chair outdoors holding frozen orange treat


Many of us have fond childhood memories of cool confections from the neighborhood ice cream truck on sultry summer days. By creating homemade, hot-weather treats with our kids, we get to enjoy the delights of fresh, seasonal produce and inventive flavor combinations, while also providing our kids with kitchen fun, healthy fare without unwelcome additives and summertime memories of their own.

“There are plenty of frozen treats from the grocery store that are in the natural or organic categories, but sometimes those still have levels of sweeteners, sugar or other preservatives that we don’t want or need,” says Annie Wegner LeFort, a Milwaukee-based chef and founder of the healthy living business EatMoveMKE. She has been making frozen pops for her 13-year-old daughter Vera since she was a toddler. Anything that is homemade is more economical and has less packaging, Wegner LeFort says. Pop molds can be used over and over, and even cups can be used and reused as molds to reduce waste.

Crafting Cool Treats

Making frozen pops can be as easy as mashing fruits and other ingredients in a bowl, pouring the mixture into molds and freezing them. A blender or a food processor can be used to make a smoother mix, with parents supervising younger kids. Older children that know how to use small appliances can safely blend—and clean up—without supervision. Wegner LeFort notes that young kids might enjoy straightforward flavor combinations, but older kids with more developed palates can experiment with herbs or exotic concoctions.

Parents can deftly blend vegetables and herbs into frozen pops and refreshing summer smoothies without being detected by finicky eaters. She recommends adding spinach to fruit blends with berries or dark-colored fruits: “You don’t even really see the greens. They are overtaken by the blue and purple fruits.” Beets or beet juice, which is high in iron and vitamins, also add a beautiful color to berry blends. Cooked and mashed sweet potatoes lend a vibrant orange to red and yellow blends made with strawberries or pineapple.

Gwen Eberly, a Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based chef who teaches cooking to kids and teens through the Zest! cooking school, recalls making healthy, decadent, frozen orange cream pops with her mother and enjoying them on her farmhouse porch on hot summer days. “The original orange cream pops recipe came from a cookbook called More With Less, a compilation of recipes offered by Mennonite women in the 1970s,” Eberly says. She made them with her own children when they were young, and they became a family favorite. Now, as teenagers, they make the treats themselves all year long.

Other simple cool snacks include monkey tails—frozen bananas rolled in melted chocolate. “That’s a simple and healthy treat that can be topped with nuts or seeds. If you use dark chocolate, that helps cut down on sugar,” Wegner LeFort advises. Ice cream sandwiches can be made with either store-bought or homemade cookies and ice cream. “Those have endless options for creativity and different flavor combinations.”

Jessi Walter Brelsford, founder and “Chief Bud” at the cooking school Taste Buds Kitchen, based in New York City, recommends putting a fun twist on fruit salad with Rainbow Kabobs, which parents and kids can make together. “Our recipe uses fresh, summer favorites like strawberries, cantaloupe, kiwis and blueberries, but depending on your family’s preferences, you can easily make these with any fruit sturdy enough to go on the skewers,” she says. “Kids love helping out, so get them even more excited to be involved by using cool tools together, like a melon baller or crinkle cutter. It will help them practice fine motor skills and pattern recognition by threading the fruits onto the skewers in specific patterns.”

With a little encouragement and experimentation, kids will be proudly and happily creating their own delicious and healthy summer snacks.

Sheila Julson is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine.

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