It’s the weekend! And it’s long one! Let’s celebrate with some homemade treats! Full disclosure — I actually posted these bars many years ago. But the images were so atrocious and I also updated the preparation method, so I thought it would be appropriate to re-post. I have no doubt many of you will be hosting or attending backyard shindigs this weekend. These are THE perfect dessert to bring to a fancy or casual affair.
This is the last hurrah before school starts and then the recipes start getting more serious. Throughout the summer, I’ve assembling more than cooking, presenting meals at irregular hours, winging it a bit. But with the first day of school looming, I know I have to get my act together and have a plan for three well-balanced meals a day. But until then, we’ll keep eating these popsicles for breakfast or to cool off in the afternoon.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: my weakness (beside guacamole and chips) is ice cream. I hardly ever eat it anymore, even the clean recipes I have on my site for dairy-free, refined sugar-free cashew ice cream. Once I start, it’s hard for me to stop, so I try to stay away from ice cream altogther. But I still crave it, especially ice cream with chunks of something tucked inside like chocolate chips, nuggets of banana, a swirl of peanut butter or a salty almond. Now look what I’ve done. I’ve gotten myself all worked up.
A homemade popsicle is my answer to an ice cream craving. It’s sweet, cold and creamy. It takes a little longer to eat. It’s a reasonable serving size and therefore an acceptable calorie count. And I can make it the way I want. My kids and I have been devouring these chocolate chia pudding popsicles. I got the idea from seeing Martha Stewart on The Today Show. She took a small container of plain yogurt and swirled some fruit into it and then stuck a popsicle stick into it and froze it. I thought that was a clever breakfast to-go for the warmer first days of school. We eat a lot of chia pudding for breakfast and snacks. My son prefers the chocolate version which I make with raw cacao powder and the next day we’ll add in fresh fruit or shredded coconut and the like. Chia seeds are really high in protein, fiber and good fats, so they make a great breakfast or substantial snack. So I took some leftover chocolate chia pudding, stirred some fresh raspberries into it and poured it into popsicle molds. Voila! Delicious and a truly healthful treat!
I think these are like a chocolate popsicle with texture. I kept the sweetness pretty low, but if you want this to feel more like a dessert, it would be super easy to make it sweeter. Just add a little honey or maple syrup to the pudding before freezing and you’ve done it. Or use more dates if that’s how you’d like to go. I love the combo of chocolate and raspberries, but you can keep these straight chocolate or add coconut or chopped cherries or strawberries or even raw cacao nibs if you’re a hardcore superfood junkie!
One message I am always trying to get through to my students is that so many recipes are just formulas that you can tweak into dozens of other recipes. Chia pudding is one of those. Once you know the basic ratio of chia seeds to liquid to sweetener, you can change it to any number of flavor combinations, like strawberry-basil, blueberry-almond or mango-coconut. You can blend fruit into the almond milk if you don’t want chunks. Or just stir pieces into the pudding if you want the texture. Or mini chocolate chips would be nice. And then there’s peaches and raspberries. Or lemon. Or banana. I can do this all day. Savor these popsicles in case they’re you’re last ones until next summer!
1 ¼ cups unsweetened almond milk or a combination of coconut milk and almond milk
3-6 pitted dates or sweetener of choice, to taste
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2-2 ½ Tablespoons raw cacao or unsweetened cocoa powder, depending on how chocolaty you like it
¼ cup chia seeds
¾ cup fresh or frozen raspberries
4-6 popsicle sticks
Place almond milk, dates, vanilla and cacao in blender and process until dates are pulverized. A Vitamix does a great job with this. If your blender leaves the dates too chunky, you can strain the mixture before adding it to the chia seeds.
Pour chia seeds into a medium container and add almond milk mixture. Stir immediately to combine otherwise you may end up with blobs of chia seeds. Allow to sit on countertop and stir every 5 minutes. After 15 minutes, it should have thickened.
Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.
When the pudding mixture is completely thickened, stir in the raspberries. Divide the pudding into popsicle molds and insert a stick in the center of each. If your molds hold 3 ounces of liquid, you should be able to get 5-6 popsicles out of this recipe.
The sweetness is to taste, so taste the mixture before refrigerating and adjust accordingly. If you don't want to use dates, try Grade A maple syrup, honey, coconut sugar or whatever you prefer.
Poor Mr. Picky was crying a little when I put him to bed last Sunday night. I thought it was because his baseball team got walloped in their playoff game which then ended their season. That wasn’t it. I thought it might be because his pitching was lousy and he felt bad it. Nope, apparently he had forgotten about his performance already. Oh, wait. It’s because I forgot to pick him up from religious school. “No, Mom! And who cares? I only had to wait like 20 minutes.” Bless his heart. Then what’s the matter? “The weekends are too shoooooort,” he sobbed and buried his face in his pillow. Ahhhhh, you are quite right, Mr. Picky. Quite right indeed. That made me a little bummed out since I don’t think I felt time fly until I was much older than his 9 years. Is life more fast-paced now than it used to be or does my family have too much going on? I don’t know. But I have good news, Mr. Picky — it’s a 3-day weekend! Hooray! And not only do we get an extra day of leisure, there are no practices or tournaments or stuff like that. We’re on easy street.
I remember when I was a stay-at-home mom, I used to think, “Oy, the weekend!” Weekends were so much more work for me to coordinate the kids and naps and birthday parties and soccer games. I loved Mondays! Mama got some quiet time. But now, it’s a different life and even though I love my work, I also love a little break from a 5:30 am alarm clock and not having to face LA traffic in the morning, which has anyone noticed gets WORSE every year?
I’ve mentioned before that I so look forward to leisurely breakfasts on the weekends and vacations. I just made a double batch of this raspberry chia “jam” and I can’t stop day dreaming about all the ways I’m going to enjoy it this weekend! I have never made “real” jam in my life because it just seems like a bit too much work and sugar. But this is a raw jam that requires nothing more than a quick stir and some patience as it needs to sit a bit to thicken. And it’s so much better for you than the cooked sugary kind!
The secret ingredient here is chia seed, which is such a little miracle food. They’re naturally rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which are super anti-inflammatory, as well as chock full of fiber and calcium. When chia seeds come into contact with liquid, they become very gelatinous and thick. So they make an awesome “pudding” when mixed with almond milk and help thicken up your morning smoothie. They have no taste at all which makes them very easy to use. They key is just knowing the right ratios of chia to liquid so your pudding or smoothie doesn’t get too thick or too thin and giving the chia seeds a little time to work their magic.
All you do here is defrost some frozen raspberries, which are good and mushy and already a little seedy, and mix with the chia seeds and a little maple syrup to sweeten. Feel free to use a couple drops of stevia if you prefer. After at least 6 hours in the fridge, you have a lovely, spreadable jam which is perfect for nut butter sandwiches (excuse the not-whole-grain bread here), pancakes or stirred into yogurt. You could even do a yogurt-granola parfait with a layer of this raspberry -chia jam. It’s always a nice idea to start your day off with a healthful breakfast during a holiday weekend, especially if you’re going to a BBQ later and you want to indulge a little. Here’s hoping your Memorial weekend is a restful and restorative one!
I use a cranberry sauce recipe for Thanksgiving that has been in my family longer than I have. My aunt received the recipe over 40 years ago from a colleague in New Jersey, who received it from someone who lived in her apartment building in New York City. I have loved this cranberry sauce for as long as I can remember. It makes no sense to me why I ever tried other recipes since this one is everything a cranberry sauce should be — uncomplicated, tart, slightly sweet, chunky and fresh. My kids eat it in a bowl with a spoon, on top of oatmeal, pancakes, or French toast, or swirled into plain yogurt. And of course, it’s divine on turkey or a turkey sandwich.
The original recipe shows its age a bit since it calls for 1 pound of fresh cranberries, because Ocean Spray used to make their bags in 1-pound sizes. Now they’re 12 ounces. The recipe also calls for frozen raspberries instead of fresh because I don’t think you could possibly get fresh raspberries in November 40 years ago. I have made my own small changes, but it still tastes just as delicious. I couldn’t help trying to cut back on the sugar a bit by substituting apple juice for water and reducing the quantity of sugar. And this year I used sucanat in place of granulated sugar and no one could tell the difference. My aunt’s recipe originally called for “chopped pecans to taste” which I have never put in simply because when I first started making the cranberry sauce, pecans were out of my budget. So I’ve left them out all these years and I can’t say I miss them.
One thing that has never changed is that I make the cranberry sauce every year the Sunday before Thanksgiving because my aunt does, too. We call each other on Sunday morning. In fact, I just got off the phone with her. “Are you chopping apples?” “I sure am!” I make enough for our Thanksgiving dinner with a little for leftovers (two times the recipe.) But my aunt makes vats of it and then drives around town delivering jars of cranberry sauce to all of her lucky friends. Our conversation cracked me up this year as she informed me she found BPA-free plastic containers for her sauce and this year she went organic with all the fruit. I think she’s been reading my blog. Although when I mentioned the sucanat to her, she said “don’t push it.”