I bought something recently that I’d been wanting to buy for several years now and kept putting off: popsicle molds. I’ve seen SO many recipes in various places for popsicles and said “Oh I wish I had popsicle molds- that would be so tasty and fun!” But every time I had the extra bit of money it went to something else that was needed. That, and I’ve never been keen on having to buy popsicle sticks all the time. So when I would find a set of molds for a reasonable price it would invariably be a kind that required sticks to be purchased separately. But this summer I’ve been striving to make cooking and eating more enjoyable despite the heat and I decided that this was the year I was going to really do some research and find some popsicle molds I would be happy with. So I went to Amazon.com (where we buy pretty much everything but clothes and food) and started looking. I found the perfect molds and bought two sets; as we have 5 in our family and need more than 6 popsicles at a time. I spent less than $15 and got 2 sets of exceptionally sturdy molds from Ikea. Boy, have I become the coolest mom in the world!

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(*Disclaimer: This is a stock picture of the molds from Amazon.com. I forgot to take a picture before I filled them and now they would be all frosty on the outside- not how I wanted them in the picture. So I snagged this one. If anyone has a problem with that I’ll remove it! Oh- and these are AWESOME molds! They should hold up for years to come.*)

See, as it turns out, the easiest popsicles in the world are just a bottle of fruit juice away! You can use the same bottle of juice you had with breakfast and have healthy popsicles after dinner! The kids were astonished 🙂 I chose a 100% juice berry medley and put that into the molds the very day I received them in the mail (after a thorough washing, of course) and the kids were ecstatic at the thought of making our own popsicles out of pretty much anything we wanted.  They started coming up with all kinds of ideas for things to make popsicles with. But they stood in awe of their favorite cook when I told them that we could make popsicles out of my homemade pudding.

I was born in 1979, so I was able to enjoy the original Jell-O Pudding Pops. Anyone 30 or over will remember Bill Cosby hawking Jell-O’s creamy, super tasty popsicles and savoring the amazing taste and texture of those little frozen gems. Then they disappeared without warning and the freezer section of the grocery store was a slightly sadder place for it.

Fast forward a decade or so and Jell-O tried to bring back the pops we all knew and loved and get a new generation hooked. It worked great: there were people all over the place doing double takes in the freezer section (literally! Not only was I one of them but I actually saw several other people do the same!), then rushing to grab a box and introduce their kids/grandkids/nieces/nephews to them before they disappeared again. Then we all tried them… they were a vile mockery of the pops we had loved so much! Grainy from ice crystals and slightly chalky, they had an incredibly off-putting flavor that made me throw most of the box away uneaten. It was a very saddening experience.

Fast forward a bit more to the present. I made a double batch of my amazingly yummy banana pudding. We ate half of the batch for dessert after dinner and the other half got stirred together a bit and put into the newly purchased popsicle molds. What came out of those molds was nothing short of nostalgia-inducing bliss! The pudding was smooth and creamy, the whipped cream even more so, and the little pockets of vanilla wafer were a wonderful treat to bite into- even if they didn’t strictly keep with the classic pudding pop theme. The only problem was the chunks of frozen banana. They added fantastic flavor, but they were the one discordant note in a symphony of creaminess. They froze just a little too hard and the texture just didn’t fit with the rest of the popsicle. Other than the chunks of banana and the bits of vanilla wafer, these were remarkably similar to Jell-O’s Pudding Pops! The bites that didn’t have chunks of things definitely had the taste and mouthfeel of those original little wonders from the 80’s. I do believe I’ve done it! Yay me!

To make these more like the store bought Jell-O pudding pops of old, leave out the vanilla wafers and mash the banana very well before mixing it in with the pudding. But to make these into down-home, Southern banana pudding popsicles proceed like this…

First, make your pudding. All you need for homemade pudding is milk, sugar, flour (you can use cornstarch, but the amount will differ), eggs, flavoring, and a pinch of (sadly not pictured) salt.

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Can you believe it? It’s that easy! That is all you should have in your pudding. Go check the box at the store and see if the ingredient list looks even remotely similar. Go ahead… I’ll wait… 😉

Now, about the eggs: you only need part of them; the yolks. To separate the eggs you can either a) crack the egg on the counter, carefully pry it apart at the equator, and use each half as a little cup to transfer the yolk back and forth as the white falls away into a bowl underneath, b) crack the egg as before and pour it out into your hand held over a bowl with your fingers apart a tiny bit to let the white fall through, or c) go buy an egg separator. I disdain egg separators.  They only thing they are good for is separating eggs. And what happens when you leave the separator near the stove and it melts? Then you have to use either option a) or b) and you could have saved yourself the money and done that in the first place!

Anyway, all you have to do is dump the flour, sugar, salt, and milk into the pan and whisk over medium heat. Once the mixture begins to just barely boil, shut the heat off and get ready to temper yourself some egg yolks. This really is super simple- people just make it out to be much harder than it is. All you’re doing by tempering is slowly bringing the temperature of the eggs up to the temperature of the mixture you’ll be adding them to. Otherwise you’d end up with a milk mixture with little chunks of scrambled egg in it. Yuck! So here’s what you do…

Using a gravy ladle or spoon (the gravy ladle is PERFECT for this job though!) in your off hand- for me it’s my left- take up a small amount of the hot mixture. With your dominant hand- the right for me- start whisking the egg yolks as quickly as you can manage with one hand. It doesn’t have to be fast- you just need to keep them moving. Now slowly pour the mixture from the ladle into the yolks, whisking the whole time. Keep the whisk moving! That’s what prevents the eggs from scrambling.

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Do this 4 or 5 times- enough to add about a 1/4 cup of the hot mixture to the egg yolks, and you have tempered eggs! That’s it! Nothing to freak out over! Now slowly pour the tempered eggs into the rest of the hot mixture, return the mixture to medium-low heat, and start stirring with a spoon (you can get rid of the whisk now). You don’t want the mixture to boil, but if the heat is too low you’ll be standing there stirring for half an hour before it gets thick enough. The pudding will start to gradually thicken as you stir. You want it to “coat the back of the spoon”- that’s how you know it’s done. To check this, take the spoon out of the pudding and run your finger horizontally down the back. Or you can use a small measuring spoon which is what I do because the hot pudding is HOT!  When the line you made stays there, it’s done. Here are a few visuals for you…

Too runny:

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STILL too runny:

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This one is just right!:

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See how the pudding stays nice and thick on either side of the line and doesn’t run? That is exactly what you want. Personally I will cook the pudding an additional 2 minutes after this point because I like a nice, THICK pudding- especially if I’m layering it for a dessert.

Now you can let this sit for a little while so you can get the pan ready. If you want to make actual banana pudding (for popsicles or just for dessert), get a 9 inch pie plate and put a layer of vanilla wafer cookies in the bottom. Then add your sliced banana. Ok, mine wasn’t sliced for this. I decided that since I was going to make popsicles out of this batch, I would mash the banana and see how it turned out. Normally I make a double batch of this and therefore get at least 2 layers. But the recipe as it appears below is for a single batch- enough to make 12 smallish popsicles. Anyway, here’s my cookies and fruit:

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My bananas are a bit darker than they should be because I had to freeze them. It would be best to use freshly mashed banana because it has less liquid. When I stirred the pudding with the whipped cream the cookies were almost liquified. Not very pretty to look at but tasty nonetheless!

Once you have the cookies and fruit in the pan, add the warm pudding and then put a piece of plastic wrap right up against the pudding so it won’t form a skin in the fridge, like so:

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Put this in the refrigerator until thoroughly chilled- overnight is best. After the pudding base has chilled completely you can make the whipped cream. Yes; you COULD just buy some Cool Whip & call it good. But Cool Whip counts as food only in the sense that it’s something you can ingest without dying. It is chock full of chemicals that are rather horrifying, really. Do yourself a favor and make your own whipped cream. Heavy whipping cream and sugar is all you need. You can add a little vanilla if you want, but I don’t here because the pudding has plenty. But homemade vanilla whipped cream can truly be a dessert all it’s own. My kids LOVE it when I give them a small dish of it for dessert. It’s a great treat indeed!

When making whipped cream your utensils need to be ice cold- literally. Whether you do this with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer the bowl and whisk attachment(s) need to be put in the freezer about 20 minutes before you actually whip the cream. And you really do need to use a glass or metal bowl for this- plastic WILL NOT hold the cold in long enough to be useful.

Do your bowl & attachments look like this when you take them out of the freezer and the room temperature air hits them?

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No? Then put them back in the freezer for at least another 10 minutes. Yes? Then carry on. Measure your whipping cream into the bowl, add half your sugar, and start mixing on medium speed. Once the cream doubles in volume, add the second half of the sugar and continue mixing. You’ll know it’s properly mixed when it looks like this:

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See the waves from the mixer? They should stay like that even after you’ve stopped mixing and there should be little peaks that stand up (stiff peaks). It will also start to take on a slight yellow hue. That is the cream going from whipping cream to butter (you did know that butter is made from cream, right?!) Once the cream is stiff and just slightly yellow stop mixing or you will, indeed, end up with butter and you’ll have to start over again. But you’ll have some very tasty butter to drain and use!

Spread your freshly whipped cream over your pudding base and then take a spoon and mix the whole thing up a bit, thusly…

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Don’t mix it completely- you want a swirl if you’re making the popsicles with the cookies and whipped cream.  If you don’t use the cookies or cream you would just mix the bananas into the pudding while it’s warm, chill the mixture, and then fill your molds. You wouldn’t be able to make quite as many but it would make really fantastic popsicles! But for now we’re doing it this way, so once mixed, you can spoon this into your molds. Ours have a fill line so we fill accordingly. Do yours however your molds require…

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Now put the sticks in or the lids on and put into the freezer until frozen solid. I usually let them sit overnight. Here is what you’ll end up with:

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These are so incredibly good that they never last more than about 2 days at our house. My dad sampled one from the first batch and couldn’t believe that anything could taste so good- especially something so easy. He actually told me “I’m glad I don’t live at your house- I’d never stop eating these!” High praise, indeed 🙂

Only 6 more weeks of summer left! I think I can hold on that long! Actually, we’ve been having a fairly good summer this year so I can’t complain too terribly much. We’ve had so much rain that the severe fire restrictions that were put into place shortly before Independence Day have been lifted, and we should have a major cool down here in Northern Colorado over the next few days. I’m still ready for summer to be over and Autumn to arrive though!!

The Recipe- Banana Pudding Base:

1/2 C Sugar

1/8 C Flour

Pinch of Salt

1 1/2 C Milk (can be whole or 2%, but nothing less than that)

4 Egg yolks

2 t Vanilla

1/2 Pinch Nutmeg (optional, but I never leave it out. The flavor it gives is wonderful!)

2 Large Bananas, sliced or mashed, if making popsicles

Vanilla Wafers

The Method:

*Mix sugar, flour, and salt in a heavy bottomed sauce pan.

*Add milk, and whisk over medium low heat.

*Temper the yolks as above, then add them into the pan.

*Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until custard coats the spoon as described above.

*Remove from heat and add vanilla extract and nutmeg (if you want to use the nutmeg).

*If all you want is vanilla pudding, transfer pudding to a bowl, place plastic wrap directly over the top of the pudding, and chill completely.

*If making banana pudding, place the vanilla wafer cookies and the bananas in layers into a serving dish with the cookies on the bottom- a 9 inch pie plate works perfectly- then pour the hot pudding over the fruit and cookies, place plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pudding, and chill completely.

The Recipe- Whipped Cream:

3/4 C Heavy Whipping Cream, very cold

1/4 C Granulated Sugar

1 t Vanilla extract (optional- I normally add the vanilla but in this case the pudding has plenty of vanilla so I leave it out)

The Method:

*Chill the glass or metal bowl you’ll be using in the freezer for at least 20 minutes prior to whipping your cream.

*Pour the cream and half of the sugar into the bowl and start mixing on medium speed.

*Once the cream doubles in volume, add the rest of the sugar.

*Continue mixing at medium speed until the cream is very thick and forms stiff peaks.

*Spread over the banana pudding base or use as desired.

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