created at: 2013-06-20When I was a kid, I had a stuffed animal that came with me everywhere. From September to May, Super Skunk would sleep in my bed and come to school in my backpack. But come June, I’d leave him in my bedroom and break out my favorite summer toy: a banged-up plastic ice-cream maker adorned with a picture of Snoopy and a crank that I used to clutch as I carried it around the house and to the beach.

I considered the ice-cream maker a toy because we only used it to make ice cream once or twice a summer. Making ice cream is a wholesome warm-weather activity, in theory. But let’s face it: not only does making your own frozen treat take considerable forethought, and possibly a run to the grocery store, but it may also require an expensive piece of counter-hogging equipment. On the other hand, popsicles are just as refreshing and much easier to make.

When it comes to making your own ice pops, I operate by two rules of thumb. First, if you can pour it into the mold, you can make it into an ice pop. And second, if it tastes good fresh, it will taste good frozen. You’re not bound by any flavor combinations, so if you love mango and a family member or friend favors strawberries and apples, experiment!

Homemade ice pops are also more than just kid-friendly; they’re health-friendly! Using your own ingredients, like fresh fruit and herbs, allows you to forgo all of those ingredients that health experts advise you to avoid, including high-fructose corn syrup and weird artificial food dyes. (They’re also adult-friendly, as you’ll see from the Gin and Tonic Ice Pop recipe below.)

Each of the following recipes makes six to eight ice pops and should be poured into molds and frozen for at least six hours, or overnight, if possible. (The Gin and Tonic Ice Pop should be frozen overnight.) You can use small paper cups and Popsicle sticks to make your own ice-pop molds, or you can spring for your own set at your local supermarket or craft store.

Pineapple Mango Ice Pops
1 cup fresh pineapple chunks, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 mango, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon fresh mint, minced

Combine pineapple, mango and water in food processor and pulse until smooth. Add more water, if needed. Pour into medium bowl and stir in mint. Pour into molds.

Nutella Yogurt Ice Pops
½ cup vanilla ice cream
½ cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon Nutella
1/8 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in small bowl. Whisk vigorously until combined and no chunks of Nutella remain. Pour into molds.

Tangy Sweet Cherry Ice Pops
1 cup Greek yogurt
½ cup frozen sweet cherries

Combine yogurt and cherries in blender or food processor and pulse until combined. Pour into molds.

Strawberry Peach Ice Pops
1 cup strawberries, quartered
2 peaches, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
1 tablespoon fresh basil, minced

Combine strawberries and peaches in blender or food processor and pulse until combined. Transfer to medium bowl and stir in basil. Pour into molds.

Gin and Tonic Ice Pops
1 cup tonic
2 teaspoons St. Germaine
¼ cup gin
1½ teaspoons sugar
Juice from 1 lime
1 teaspoon fresh basil, minced

Combine all ingredients in small bowl and stir to combine. Pour into molds.