Ice Cream Sunday: Berry & Yogurt Swirl Pops

Popsicles! The quintessential kid treat from summertime.

Popsicles trigger my memories:

  • the chiming music of the ice cream truck
  • begging my mom for a quarter to buy a bomb pop (remember those red, white, and blue popsicles?)
  • all the neighborhood kids racing to the truck when it finally stopped and elbowing each other for who would be first in line
  • sticky popsicle juice melting and dripping down my chin and onto my t-shirt and all over my hands
  • the sheer and utter joy of summertime freedom and of youth

What happened to those ice cream trucks? I never see them anymore.  (For that matter, what happened to the summertime freedom and youth?)

No fear. I can now make my own popsicles at home. Very designer popsicles, as a matter of fact.

And far healthier than the commercial versions.

Enter these fruit and yogurt pops. I saw tons of recipes around the 4th of July for red, white, and blue popsicles, but this particular recipe reduced the amount of sugar, which appealed to me. Honey replaces some of the sugar, and it tastes light and refreshing as a result.

Since my Tovolo ice pop molds only house six pops and the recipe makes more than that, I just kept the leftover popsicle mixes in a covered container in the fridge and refilled the molds every time we polished one off. When the leftovers got down to one fruit flavor and the yogurt, I gently mixed the two together, making for a pop with heavy traces of fruity sweetness throughout the popsicle versus layers of flavors.

A few notes about these ice pop molds: LOVE ‘EM! Last year, I bought the inexpensive ones at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Argh. Didn’t work so well. Too cheapo.

This year, I discovered the Tovolo brand via other food bloggers. I love that I can take the molds out of the base one at a time; hence, when they are empty, I can store them back on the base even if the base is still in the freezer. I love that the caps on the molds fit so snugly. No freezer burn from exposed ice cream. The caps don’t come apart  from the pops when you pull the pops from the mold–big plus since the cheapos tend to fall apart.

I just run the pop under lukewarm water for a bit, then gently twist and pull until the pop comes loose. Yes, it’s a bit of work but nothing major.

One thing I don’t like: when you get toward the end of the popsicle, it slides into the deep cap and unless I grab a spoon, it’s too hard to get to the last of the frozen treat. Again, not a big deal.

I am so excited to try other flavors and combos for the popsicles that I think I may just have to order another popsicle mold.

One more memory: did anyone else ever hitch a ride on the back of the ice cream truck, unbeknownst to the driver, and take a spin around the block? And get yelled at by the driver when he discovered you? Ah, the sheer and utter joy of summertime freedom and of youth.

Berry & Yogurt Swirl Pops

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INGREDIENTS

Strawberry Layer

  • 1/2 pound (1 1/2 cups) strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp.  lime juice
  • lime zest, from one lime

Blueberry Layer

  • 1/2 pound (1 1/2 cups) blueberries
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • lemon zest, from one small lemon

Yogurt Layer

  • 2 cups Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 pod vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise and seeds scraped with knife, or use 1 tsp. vanilla bean paste or use 2 tsp. vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a food processor, purée strawberries with honey, sugar, lime juice, and lime zest, Transfer to a small bowl.
  2. In a food processor, purée blueberries with honey, sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Set aside in a small bowl.
  3. In another small bowl, whisk together yogurt, honey, and vanilla bean seeds (or paste or extract).
  4. Pour the 3 mixtures, alternating, into ten 3-ounce ice pop molds, making 3-5 layers in each. With a skewer or thin-bladed knife, swirl mixtures together in an up-and-down motion. Insert ice-pop sticks and freeze until solid, 2 1/2 – 3 hours.

SOURCE: adapted from The Cafe Sucre Farine who adapted from Martha Stewart Living

Homemade Yogurt

Who knew yogurt was so easy to make? Just heat up milk to 180 degrees F, cool it down to 110-120 degrees, mix in a couple teaspoons of yogurt, stick it in a warm place for 8-12 hours, strain out the whey, and you have yogurt. I was tickled pink when I discovered that it is so easy to make. I had to try it. And I’ve tried it again…and again…and again..

Not only is it super easy to make yogurt, but it tastes far creamier and smoother than the packaged stuff at the store that is loaded with preservatives and who knows what else.

I’ve read that you can use the spectrum from whole milk to nonfat. I’ve only used whole milk. Bonus: I’ll never have to throw milk away that is past its due date because now I can just turn it into yogurt.

Once the yogurt reaches a gelatinous stage (after the 8-12 hour period), you need to strain the whey (the liquid) to the consistency you desire. I like thick Greek-style yogurt, so I let mine strain a lot. I’ll post soon about ways to use the whey. By the way, I take 3 coffee filters and overlap them to cover my strainer, then I spoon the yogurt in to strain it. I tried it once without the filters and the yogurt just strained right on through with the whey. Some people say this is a messy method. I find that my yogurt slides right off the filters, no problem and very little mess.

You can mix in vanilla when it is done straining to add some flavor. I haven’t tried that, though. I like the tangy flavor of the yogurt as is.

My favorite way to eat yogurt is with sliced strawberries and sprinkled with granola. I’ve taken to drizzling a bit of honey over it lately, and that adds a touch of sweetness to counterbalance the tang of the yogurt.

If you like fruit mix-in yogurts, consider making your own mixes. Annie of Annie’s Eats has a great post with some recipes she has created (link listed below).

How else can you use yogurt? Try making panna cotta. Try frozen yogurt. Try tzatziki. Some baked goods call for yogurt, too.

However, I love to just spoon mouthfuls of it along with some freshly sliced sweet strawberries.

As far as equipment goes, you will need a thermometer to make sure you have the temps correct. I have an effective and reasonably-priced digital thermometer. Other than that, a pan, a bowl, a towel and an oven are needed. Oven? Yes, that is the warm place you keep the yogurt for several hours while the bowl is covered and wrapped in a towel. I always mix my yogurt in the evenings and then let it sit in the oven overnight. I still feel hesitant about having a towel in my oven all night, but so far so good. Oh, you need a fine-mesh sieve, too.

I have read about other methods for keeping the yogurt warm, such as keeping it in an ice cooler along with some jars of hot water. I’ll provide some links to sites I read to learn about making yogurt so you can read up on the various methods.

In my yogurt journeys, I do fine with the heating/cooling part. A couple times I’ve forgotten to add the teaspoons of yogurt with live cultures, needed to inoculate the milk. Once, I had popped the bowl of milk into the oven for about a half hour when I remembered I had forgotten that step. I simply added the yogurt at that point and all turned out well.

Another time, I left the bowl in the oven for the 12-hour period, took it out, and it was still just milk. Then it dawned on me that I had forgotten the spoonful-of-yogurt step. Argh! So I experimented: I added the yogurt and popped it back into the oven for another 12 hours. And it worked! It turned into yogurt.

I’ll post the process below, but I highly recommend you check out the posts listed, for they offer some step-by-step pictures as well as a video and tons of other useful information:

SOURCES:

Annie’s Eats–great pics to show you the steps

Salad in a Jar–video & several posts about making yogurt

Food in Jars–how to use cooler to make yogurt

Annie’s Eats–fruit mix-in recipes

Homemade Yogurt

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INGREDIENTS

  • 2 quarts of milk (any type)
  • 2 tsp. plain yogurt

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat milk in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until temperature reaches 180 degrees F (you can also microwave the milk in a bowl  instead; I’ve used both methods).
  2. Remove pan from heat; set aside and allow to cool, stirring occasionally, until the temperature has dropped to 110-120 degrees F. (This temperature allows the bacterial cultures to transform into yogurt; too hot = death of cultures while too low = improper incubation.)
  3. Transfer milk to a ceramic or glass bowl and stir in 2 teaspoons of plain yogurt, but make sure the yogurt lists live cultures as an ingredient.
  4. Preheat the oven to any temperature, then shut it off after one minute. This serves to warm the oven, eliminating any chill air. Turn the oven light on, and keep it on for the duration of the incubation process; it helps keep the oven air warm. Cover the dish and wrap the covered bowl in a thick towel (I use a bath towel). Close the oven and let the mixture incubate in the oven for 8-12 hours.
  5. Place a fine-mesh sieve over a large bowl; line it with a thick paper towel, coffee filters, or cheesecloth. Spoon the yogurt into the sieve, place the straining set up in the refrigerator, and strain until most of the liquid (the whey) has drained from the yogurt. Either discard the whey or save it for other uses.
  6. Place the yogurt in a storage container, whisk to smooth it out, and store in the refrigerator (you can add a tablespoon of vanilla at this point if you desire). I’ve kept my yogurt refrigerated for up to two weeks, and I’ve also used it as a starter for the next batch of yogurt.

Yield: 3-4 cups

Chicken Gyros and Tzatziki Sauce

We arrived home after a 10-day trip to find 25 cucumbers had ripened on our vines!! And that’s not counting the 25+ picked prior to the trip, most of which we gave away. Next year we know to plant less cucumber seeds :  )

For now, though, I need to find ways to use these up, and one of my tastiest involves grating the cucumber to mix with yogurt and garlic and lemon juice for tzatziki sauce.

I used to think tzatziki was made from mayonnaise, one of my least-liked foods, so I avoided it like the plague. Then one day I found courage to taste it when I learned it was made from yogurt. And I loved it! So light and refreshing yet with the slight lemon zing offset by the bite of garlic.

I’ve actually made this a few times in the past few months but haven’t managed to get a decent picture worth posting until now. Sometimes I’ve followed the chicken marinade from this recipe; sometimes I’ve just baked it with seasonings sprinkled on it. It’s the tzatziki that gives the gyros the ultimate flavor, in my opinion.

I’ve tried a variety of pitas for this: homemade (time consuming and labor intensive), Trader Joe’s, and the local Farmer’s Market. All of them have broken when folded and fall apart. I’m still searching for a pita that will be soft and pliable like the one from Athen’s West, a local Greek fast food joint. Or maybe I need to learn how to heat these so they become pliable, though I’ve tried wrapping them in foil and sticking in the oven for a few minutes. I’ll keep searching for both a pita and a heating method that work.

However, in the meantime, I find just the leftover chicken pieces dipped into the tzatziki sauce quite yummy for next-day’s lunch, so the pita can be left out altogether–but then you wouldn’t actually have gyros…just a dipping sauce for chicken. Delicious either way!

Chicken Gyros and Tzatziki Sauce

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INGREDIENTS

Tzatziki Sauce

  • 16 oz. plain yogurt, water drained out for at least 2 hours…or use Greek yogurt, which requires no draining (save 2 heaping tbsp. for chicken marinade)
  • 1 regular cucumber, peeled and seeded
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. fresh dill, minced (I haven’t actually included dill when I’ve made it but have seen it in other recipes)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • squeeze of fresh lemon juice (then use rest of juice for chicken marinade)
  • extra virgin olive oil

Chicken Marinade

  • 1 1/4 lbs. chicken (I use two boneless, skinless chicken breasts)
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1 tbsp. dried oregano
  • 2 heaping tbsp. plain yogurt
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Other

  • pita bread
  • 1-2 tomatoes, diced
  • lettuce (or cucumbers)
  • red onion, thinly sliced

DIRECTIONS

Tzatziki Sauce

  1. If using plain yogurt, strain the yogurt using a sieve placed over a bowl; cover with foil and let drain for at least 2 hours up to overnight in refrigerator.
  2. Shred the peeled and seeded cucumber. Wrap in cheesecloth or a sturdy paper towel and squeeze out as much water as possible.
  3. Mix cucumber, yogurt, garlic, white wine vinegar, dill, salt and pepper, and lemon juice.
  4. Drizzle lightly with olive oil.
  5. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to meld. Note: the sauce can be made at least a day in advance.

Chicken

  1. Mix the garlic, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, yogurt, oregano, and salt and pepper in a medium bowl.
  2. Add the chicken breasts; mix well to coat. Cover and refrigerate for about one hour.
  3. Cook the chicken, either in a skillet or under the broiler. Transfer to a plate and let rest for 5 minutes, then cut into strips.

Assembly

  1. Heat pitas: either spray with olive oil and pop in toaster oven for a few minutes or wrap in foil and heat for 5-10 minutes in oven at 350 degrees F.
  2. Top with chicken, tzatziki sauce, diced tomatoes, lettuce, and onions.

SOURCE: adapted from Annie’s Eats who adapted from Elly Says Opa!