Strawberry Vanilla Yogurt Popsicles

frozen

My childhood memories from summer include picking butterbeans in the sticky, humid morning hours before the sun became intolerable, sleeping in occasionally (okay, whenever I could!), nighttime softball games, climbing to the tip top of the pine trees in my yard and running through the sprinkler. And oh, the sweet treats that were always better in the summer!  Watermelon, crisp and cold, the refreshing juice running down my chin and getting just about everything sticky.  Strawberries warm from the vine, intensely flavored like no other time of year.  Toasted marshmallows.  And popsicles – does anything say summer more than those frozen treats?

On a hot summer day, there’s nothing quite like a popsicle to cool your insides.  The ones I remember were the Fla-Vor-Ice.  You could get a hundred or more in a box, take them home, pop them in the freezer and in a few hours have a frozen water and sugar concoction that would turn your lips and tongue all shades of colors.  But the ingredients, be still my heart.  All sugar, artificial ingredients and preservatives, but not that much different from any other popsicle on the market.  Highly processed and loaded with refined sugars, they taste good going down but leave you low after the initial sugar rush and have little to no nutritional value.

In a recent conversation with a friend, she mentioned that one of the things she loved about summer was spending time with her grandchildren and buying them ice cream and popsicles to eat outside.  Of course, this led the conversation to being an example to our children and grandchildren and offering them healthier alternatives to sugar-laden treats.  I love a food challenge, so I set to work researching and experimenting.  This week’s recipe is the result, and I think it’s going to be one of my favorites.  Incredibly simple, kid-friendly and healthy – you can’t ask for more than that!  If you have summer days that are filled with activities and need a quick, healthy breakfast on the go, grab one out of the freezer, breakfast is done.  How would the kids in your life love that – a popsicle for breakfast!  I’ll let you in on a secret – Toby Dog and I both had one, he was pretty thrilled!

You’ll notice that I used plain Greek yogurt and added vanilla extract instead of buying vanilla yogurt.  I made that choice based on the ingredient list of the vanilla yogurt; it had 26 grams of sugar per serving vs. 6 grams in plain yogurt as well as a lot of artificial ingredients and preservatives.

This recipe very versatile, see the options below for combination suggestions.  As always, have fun and if you come up with a great combination let me know!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sliced strawberries, fresh or frozen and defrosted
  • 4 tablespoons stevia, divided
  • 2 cups nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Place the strawberries and 2 tablespoons stevia in a food processor and blend until smooth.
  2. Mix the yogurt, remaining stevia and vanilla extract in a bowl until well combined.
  3. Taste the strawberry and yogurt mixtures before adding to the popsicle molds and adjust sweetener if necessary.
  4. Spoon half of the strawberry mixture into each mold, then layer half of the yogurt mixture. Top each mold with the remaining strawberry mixture then the remaining yogurt mixture.  (Note:  You don’t have to layer, you can combine the strawberry and yogurt mixtures then spoon into the popsicle molds.  Layering will yield a slightly icy strawberry layer and a creamy yogurt layer, mixing the entire batch will result in the entire popsicle creamy. I layered because it’s purdy, entirely up to you!)
  5. Freeze until solid. Dip the molds in warm water for a few seconds before pulling out the popsicles.

popsicles_rotate

*Makes enough to fill an eight-popsicle mold.  If you don’t have popsicle molds, use paper cups and popsicle sticks and put on a baking sheet to freeze.

Options:

  • Strawberries and bananas
  • Blueberries
  • Watermelon
  • Peaches
  • Get really creative and choose some of the combinations from Unity’s May 6 nutrition article (http://inperfectunity.com/index.php/2016/05/06/week-four-drink-better-health/). Next time I’m going to try something adventurous.  Cucumber, watermelon and mint or lemon and blueberry or ginger?  Let me know what you try!

toby_popsicle

Unity’s Farro Salad

farro salad

In this week’s nutritional article, you read about the super grain farro.  It is packed with protein and fiber (twice that of modern wheat), is an antioxidant, supports immune system health, heart health, muscle gain and helps to prevent certain types of cancer.

With summer officially here, this dish is not only incredibly healthy, it’s light, easy to make and pairs well with grilled meats, especially chicken and fish.  It can also be made ahead of time and keeps well in the refrigerator.  You can also double it if you’re taking it for a picnic.

In this recipe, I used my favorite summer vegetables and things that I usually have on hand.  You can do the same, substitute whatever fresh vegetables you have available.  Carrots, radishes, celery, kale, the sky is the limit!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole grain farro
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. fresh, chopped thyme (1 tsp. if using dried)
  • ½ lb cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • ½ sweet pepper, diced (red, yellow or orange, your choice)
  • ¼ sweet onion, diced
  • ½ cucumber, diced
  • 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup sliced black olives (or olive of your choice)
  • Splash of extra virgin olive oil (make sure it’s cold pressed and check the harvesting date, warm climates it’s October, colder climates March, look for a future article on olive oils!)
  • Plain, nonfat Greek yogurt for dipping (optional; if you tend to over dip, measure out 1/3 cup)

Instructions:

  1. Rinse the farro, and then place in medium pot with water and salt.
  2. Over high heat, bring to a boil then reduce heat to bring grains to a slow boil. Boil for 30 minutes then drain.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and mix. Taste and adjust seasons as needed.
  4. Serve along with yogurt (optional).
  • This dish can stand alone or can be used as a side dish.
  • Serving as a main dish: 1 cup
  • Serving as a side: ½ cup
  • Options: Sprinkle a little feta cheese over each serving; substitute basil or oregano for the thyme