Little Cakes with Summer Fruit

Some of you may be wondering: Why make such tiny cakes, when you could make one big cake? 

It’s a fair question, I admit. Because, as a lifetime of eating cake has taught me, cakes – even simple ones – beg for a bit of ceremony.They are to be unveiled (even if only from a plastic cake carrier), sliced and carefully distributed, piece by piece, the slowness of the affair serving to increase your appreciation of the fact that soon, you will have cake! 

bowl-pair.jpgTiny cakes – cakes that offer instant gratification, that can be eaten with your bare hands – they’re really just glorified muffins. (Not to mislead you here, a muffin and a cake are made using different mixing methods, and so are technically different things.) So why not just stick to big cakes and muffins? 

Because little cakes fill a niche all their own. 

First, they’re seem nicer than muffins. So I suspect that in simply knowing they’re cakes, there’s a good chance we’ll find them a little tastier – or more tender, or fancier, or more indulgent, or more ceremonious (despite the obvious deficiencies) – than their muffiny counterparts.  

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Second, they’re more portable than a full-sized cake. And, if you’re the type who would, say, schedule a two-week camping trip immediately following a four-day outdoor music festival, having a stockpile of portable desserts (with that bonus psychologically-induced tastiness that muffins lack) may be essential to your survival. Of course, my original stash of 12 has dwindled to a mere one, having sampled a few and shared a few more, so I’m forced, alas, to make more. 

_MG_2978.jpgExplanations aside, the cakes were lovely – delicately flavoured with vanilla, fruit and lemon, and sturdy enough in texture to live up to the claims of portability. I think they could use a bit of tweaking and so have made a few suggestions in the notes above the recipe. If you want to reproduce the cakes as they are in the photos, simply follow the recipe as it’s written. 

And now, all that being said, I should tell you that I didn’t think about any of this until after I made the cakes. But I’ve convinced myself and, hopefully you too, of the merits of little cakes. And with that, I’m off to bake another batch! 



Little Cakes with Summer Fruit
Adapted from epicurious.com
Makes 12 small cakes

Notes: Next time I make these, I’ll add a full cup of fruit, dicing one 1/2 cup of it and stirring into the batter with the final batch of flour, and pressing the other 1/2 cup into the tops of the cakes as the recipe below directs. This approach should work fine with all of the fruits except for the cherries, which would dye your cakes red, were you to stir them into the batter. 

If you end up using a variety of fruits, like I did, you’ll find yourself with a lot of leftovers. I stewed my extra fruit – loosely following this recipe – and served it alongside the cakes. 

Ingredients
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder 
1/4 tsp table salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temerature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla or almond extract
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1/3 cup of milk (or non-dairy alternative)
~1/2 cup of soft fresh fruit*, cut into small pieces
1 tbsp granulated or raw sugar
Butter for greasing the muffin tins 

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 12-muffin tin with butter. 

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. 

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer (or using a large bowl and a sturdy whisk), beat together the butter and sugar until fluffly, 2-4 minutes.

4. Add the egg, vanilla/almond extract and lemon zest to the butter mixture and beat again until smooth. 

5. Stir 1/3 of the flour mixture into the butter mixture, followed by 1/2 the milk, then another 1/3 flour, then the remaining 1/2 of the milk, then the remaining 1/3 of the flour.  

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6. Evenly distribute the batter between the 12 muffin cups. Top each little cake with some of the fresh fruit, gently pressing the fruit into the batter. Sprinkle each cake with 1/4 tsp granulated sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops of the cakes are golden and a tested inserted into the centre of a cake comes out moist but clean. Take care not to overbake them, or you’ll risk a crumbly cake!

7. Let the cakes cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire wrack to cool until they’re cool enough to eat. The cakes are best day-of, while they’re still warm, but extras can be stored in an airtight container for an extra day. 

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*I used peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries, blueberries and plums. I cut the cherries into quarters, left the blueberries whole, and cut the remaining fruit into 1/4-inch slices. 

Coming Up Tomorrow: Summer Fruit Snacking Cakes

Tune in tomorrow to find out how to turn your overflowing fruitbowl into a tray of brunch-friendly, vanilla-scented snacking cakes. 

What Should Have Been a Recipe

Some days, despite your best intentions to cook a bloggable meal, the world conspires in such a way that you find yourself eating peanut butter on bread for breakfast and takeout Indian for lunch and dinner. 

In other words: I intended to have a recipe for you guys today, but it just wasn’t in the cards. But I’m on it! Check back in a day or two for something new and definitively not takeout (though I should say now that the Indian was delicious). Until then, happy cooking (and/or takeouting).   

5-minute Mac and Cheese

Fellow mac-and-cheese-loving Millennials: We’ve been duped!

Thanks to a blue-boxed processed pasta dish that shall remain nameless, we’ve come to believe that pasta with cheese sauce is, at its heart, a food of convenience.

And then, sometime in our late teens or early twenties, as we start to flex our culinary muscles, we get it in our heads that we will make macaroni and cheese from scratch, and our perceptions change.  

_MG_2776-3.png20, 30, 40 minutes after we embark on our dinner adventure – long after the familiar 8-10 minutes we’ve come to expect from our childhood (and/or university?) years have passed – we find ourselves grating mountains of cheese while we simultaneously attempt to tame a volcanic roux. (Add an extra 20-30 minutes if some persuasive recipe writer has convinced you to top your creation with buttery bread crumbs and bake it all, alas.) 

It’s not a bad thing, at the core of it. We learn to exercise patience and perseverance. We level up our kitchen skills. We make a cheese sauce! 

But sometimes, you simply can’t spare an hour to cook.  

trio.pngFriends, when you’re short on time, you can still have your pasta, without falling back on the blue box. Because, as a spartan fridge recently taught me, all you have to do to create a delicious cheese sauce is stir soft feta, extra virgin olive oil and pepper into hot pasta. And if you use a variety that cooks shockingly fast – like super-skinny capellini (angel hair) – your dinner will be ready a mere five minutes after the pasta water boils, tops.  

I should acknowledge that unlike the boxed stuff: 1) The ingredients will cost more than $1; 2) You can’t keep it in your pantry for two years; and, 3) It’s not made with macaroni, but macaroni isn’t nearly as tasty (or convenient) anyway. And it’s still devoid of vegetables and proteins (though, as I note in the recipe below, you can remedy this easily without extending your cooking time significantly). 

But it is faster. And thanks to the liberal quantities of salt and fat, it maintains the addictive quality you’ve come to love. Plus, you made it. And it’s not neon, which counts for quite a lot, or so I’m told by those who didn’t grow up with the blue box. 
 



5-minute Mac and Cheese

Serves 4

Notes: Given the short ingredients list, quality here is key! Be especially choosy about your feta, looking for a cheese that’s soft and not too salty (sample a few varieties at the deli if you can). I use goat feta from Edmonton’s Italian Centre

Ingredients
320 grams of dry capellini (angel hair) pasta
1 1/4 cups of soft feta (I like goat), finely crumbled
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra as needed
1 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
~1/2 tsp fine sea salt (start with less if you’re using table salt) 

Optional: If you want to add some veggies to your pasta, consider tossing in ~1.5 cups of frozen peas or finely chopped fresh broccoli to the pot at the same time as the pasta. You could also add some finely diced fresh tomato or a sparing amount of very finely diced kalamata olives (start with 1 tbsp) to the pasta just before serving. 

Directions

1. Bring a large pot filled 2/3 with well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Once the water is on the stove, prep your ingredients if you haven’t already!

2. As soon as the water boils, add your pasta to the pot (if that pasta looks too long to fit in the pot, break the pieces in half before you drop them in the water). Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package, checking it regularly for doneness. Capellini typically needs only 2-4 minutes before it’s al dente!

3. As soon as the pasta is cooked to your liking, turn off the stove, then carefully drain the pasta (best to do this in the pot with the lid on, as the pasta will likely spill through a colander), reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water in a heat-safe cup or bowl. 

4. In the same pot, stir the pasta with the feta, olive oil, pepper and sea salt until the smaller pieces of cheese have melted and the pasta is well-coated with the pseudo-sauce. If the pasta looks sticky or dry, stir in a few splashes of the pasta water to loosen things up. 

5. Serve while it’s hot! 

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Coming up: Mac and Cheese Made Easy

Homemade mac and cheese made with five ingredients, in five minutes. Really. 

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Be here tomorrow to find out how it’s done!

Eating in the Rockies: Part 3



This post is part of a series! Read the other two installments of Eating in the Rockies here: 

Eating in the Rockies: Part 1 (Introduction)

Eating in the Rockies: Part 2 (Essential Cooking Gear)  



In last week’s installment of Eating in the Rockies, I shared with you the contents of our camp kitchen – what essentials and little luxuries we were happy to have toted around mountain campgrounds. 

Now that we’ve laid the groundwork for good eating, we can (finally!) get to the food. In this week’s post – the last of this little series – I’ll share our strategy for choosing ingredients that kept us well-fed and away from grocery stores for seven days, without requiring that we pack the entire contents of my pantry or rely on canned chili and hot dogs. 

I’ll also share our favourite recipes from the week, plus a few handy tips that saved us from soggy sandwiches and other mealtime tribulations. Ready? Let’s get to it!

what-to-bring.pngIn general, we tried to bring ingredients that were:

  1. Relatively hardy. Choosing ingredients that will stand up to a week in a cooler means you won’t have to constantly design your dinner menu around stuff that’s about to spoil. Cabbage was great, spinach not so much. 
     
  2. Multipurpose. When you’re away from a grocery store for a week, it’s helpful to have ingredients on hand that work in multiple kinds of dishes. For example, things like crushed tomatoes, chickpeas and thai basil will come in handy whether you’re having pasta or a curry. 
     
  3. Staples, with variety. We opted to bring a few kinds of starches (rice, pasta, potatoes and tortillas) and proteins (canned chickpeas and beans, dried red lentils, eggs). It’s more work than packing giant quantities of a single type of starch or protein, but when your options are already limited by what you’ve stashed in your car, it’s worth the extra bit of effort to give yourself some variety. 

breakfast.pngWhen camping, my general strategy is to keep the cooking mess to a minimum in the morning, so that we don’t start our day off doing a giant pile of dishes. At the same time, part of the idea behind going camping was to go on vacation and break from the normal routine, so we snuck a few nicer morning meals in there too. Here’s what worked well:

  • Emergency cereal: Most mornings, we ate muesli with fresh fruit, but when the muesli ran out, we topped a box of crunchy cereal brought along for snacking with a handful of nut-and-dried-fruit trail mix. Heartier than cereal alone, and tasty too!
     
  • Pancakes: Before we left home, I tossed all of the dry ingredients from this recipe into a large reusable container. At the campsite, I added to the container the wet ingredients (melting the required butter in the same frying pan I’d be cooking the pancakes in). We topped ours with chocolate chips and bananas that we warmed up in tinfoil over a morning campfire. 
     
  • Scrambled eggs: We added a bit of chopped cheddar (no grater on hand) to the frying pan while the eggs were cooking and served the finished eggs with sliced tomatoes and store-bought tortillas warmed in a dry frying pan. This was especially nice on chilly mornings!

lunch.pngMost of our lunches were eaten on the go – either on a hike, or at a roadside pullout as we made our way from one destination to the next – so convenience was key. And so: Sandwiches. We prepped our fillings in the morning and kept them in a container separate from our bread/tortillas, then assembled everything at lunch time. Sogginess, averted! 

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While I’d be happy roasting veggie dogs on a stick over a campfire, my travelling companion takes great pride in making a good meal while camping, so I had no choice but to eat well. These were some of our favourite dinners:

  • This lentil recipe, tomato paste omitted (didn’t bring any) and fresh tomatoes swapped with whatever veggies needed using up. We served ours with rice.
     
  • A simple, flavourful coconut green curry, made as follows: 1) Heat a big spoonful of prepared green curry paste in a pot with a bit of oil for 30 seconds; 2) Add 1 can of drained chickpeas and 1 can of coconut milk, along with a big handful of fresh vegetables (we used sliced purple cabbage, spinach and diced zucchini); 3) Simmer until the veggies are tender, salting it along the way; 4) Serve atop hot rice and sprinkling with a big handful of thai basil. Serves 2-3. 
     
  • Speedy pasta with spicy tomato sauce, made as follows: 1) Cook capellini (angel hair) pasta in salted boiling water until nearly done – it takes only 2-3 minutes!; 2) Pour off the cooking water, then toss into the pasta some crushed tomatoes, hot chilies, salt, a bit of red wine (if you’re already drinking it) and a can of chickpeas, drained – quantities will depend on how many servings you’re after; 3) Heat for a couple minutes, until the sauce is hot and the pasta is cooked; 4) We served ours with some of the leftover thai basil, but it would also be tasty with some crumbled feta or grated hard cheese, or a bit of extra virgin olive oil, if you’ve brought things like that on your trip!
     
  • Pseudo chana masala, made with the extra crushed tomatoes from the pasta and the same spice mix we used to make the lentils (we premixed the spices at home and brought along enough for a couple meals), plus some cayenne from one of these handy gadgets.

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  • We brought bagged tea and a little container of homemade cocoa mix (just cocoa powder and sugar, essentially) for chilly nights and mornings. 
     
  • We pre-washed all of our fruits and veggies before leaving home (except for tricky stuff, like cabbage). It’s a little time consuming, but it makes it a whole lot easier to snack/cook at a moment’s notice and lets you save precious drinking water should you find yourself without other sources of potable water. 
     
  • We found it worked well to chill our cooler with consumable icepacks, like frozen cartons of milk and bottles of water. It saved precious cooler space, and let us take ice-cold water on long day hikes. Just over halfway through our trip, we refilled the cooler with a block of ice, which lasted us until we got home (admittedly some of our campgrounds still had snow on the ground, so it wasn’t too difficult to keep food cool). 
     
  • There are few disappointments greater than getting a nice fire going and being unable to crack into your corked bottle of wine. When you’re camping, choose screwtop! 
And there we have it, friends – camping food, in a blog-post-shaped nutshell. Whether or not you’re camping this summer, I hope the weeks ahead bring you good food and great times! 




This post is part of a series! Read the other two installments of Eating in the Rockies here: 

Eating in the Rockies: Part 1 (Introduction)

Eating in the Rockies: Part 2 (Essential Cooking Gear)  




Eating in the Rockies: Part 2



This post is part of a series! Read the other two installments of Eating in the Rockies here: 

Eating in the Rockies: Part 1 (Introduction)

Eating in the Rockies: Part 3 (Recipes, Tips, Extras)  



Picking up where we left off yesterday, today I’m giving you a closer look at what we did to ensure tasty times on our 8-day camping trip in the mountains, in hopes that you too can eat well even when electricity is nowhere to be found.

I’ll start by sharing the bits and pieces of our portable kitchen, with the help of some of cellphone photos (my proper camera was often tucked away at mealtime, alas).

As I mentioned yesterday, we were car camping, so we had the luxury of not having to limit our kitchen gear to what we could carry on our backs. That being said, we still tried to keep it relatively light (more space for snacks that way!). 

camping-gear.jpgHere’s what were glad to have with us:

Two cooking pots: You could probably get by with a single pot, but having a second on hand means that you can cook your rice and curry (or beans and mashed potatoes, or whatever you’re having for dinner) at the same time. If you plan to cook atop your campfire, make sure to leave your good pots at home. 

One frying pan: An essential if you’re planning pancakes or scrambled eggs. 

A cookstoveThe previous time we went camping, we managed well with one of these super-portable methyl alcohol cookstoves. This time around, we borrowed my sister’s propane two-burner stoveIt takes up considerably more space that the little stove and isn’t as easy to tote around, but it does let you cook two things at once, which is awfully nice when it’s pouring rain and you just want to get your eating over with and climb into your sleeping bag. Don’t forget the matches and the gas! 

Now, all that being said, we saw several people make good use of the cast iron stoves that you’ll find in the national park cooksheds (one group fired up the stove and made fresh-cut french fries!), so if you’re clever about where you camp you can probably get by without bringing a stove or grill from home. If you go that route, remember to pack matches and an axe or a hatchet for chopping firewood.

stove-fire.jpgBasic cooking utensils: Our little kit included a cutting board, kitchen knife, vegetable peeler, can opener, spatula, wooden spoon and scissors. If you’re planning to have a drink with dinner, you’ll want to pack a corkscrew and bottle opener as well (or keep it easy and stick to screwtop!). 

Dishware (per person): A plate, a bowl, a mug or thermos, and a set of cutlery (or one of these gadgets, if you’re short on space). Our favourite non-essentials were these plastic collapsible wine glasses

Reusable storage containers: We brought along a few containers, in part for food storage but more for use in food prep – as a mixing bowl, or to hold piles of chopped veggies awaiting their turn in the pot. 

Tinfoil: For wrapping around anything you want to roast in the fire (we went for chocolate-filled bananas). 

Cleaning supplies: Unless you’re lugging a ton of disposable dishware from home, you’ll have to wash dishes. RV parks may be well stocked for dish-doing, but if you’re staying in national parks you’ll need to bring your own soap, scrubbing brush and dish towels.   

pots-pans.jpgThis is getting awfully long, friends, so I’ll leave it here for today. Tune in next time to find out what we ate (with lots of recipes and tips!). 



This post is part of a series! Read the other two installments of Eating in the Rockies here: 

Eating in the Rockies: Part 1 (Introduction)

Eating in the Rockies: Part 3 (Recipes, Tips, Extras)  


Eating in the Rockies: Part 1

 


This post is part of a series! Read the other two installments of Eating in the Rockies here: 

Eating in the Rockies: Part 2 (Essential Cooking Gear)

Eating in the Rockies: Part 3 (Recipes, Tips, Extras)  



Growing up, my family and I did a ton of camping. You know, the sort where you and the friend you’ve brought along could, say, make a batch of cupcakes in your trailer’s tiny oven or end a hot day with a couple scoops of ice cream from the ample freezer. A quick stop-off at the pool and the showers, followed by a night reading the newest Harry Potter novel in your bunk bed by electricity-powered interior lights, and your day of camping was complete.

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My recent camping trip to the Rockies was a bit different. 

This time, I packed my car and headed off with a seasoned hiker who considers tenting in an unserviced site in the middle of nowhere more of a vacation than an adventure. So you can guess that cupcakes were off the menu.

tree-camp.jpgAs I’ve already made clear, my expertise when it comes to packing for an 8-day car camping trip in the mountains is minimal. But (likely in no small part due to input from my travelling companion), we managed to eat exceptionally well, stopping for groceries just once to grab an extra litre of milk to feed our hot cocoa needs, otherwise using only what we brought in one standard cooler and one similarly-sized container of non-perishables. 

And so, in the event that there are any other novice car campers out there, tomorrow I’ll be sharing our general strategy, what kind of cooking gear we brought, and which recipes were particularly delicious when taken with a side of mountain views, so that you too can enjoy your next cupcake-free camping adventure.  

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Tune in tomorrow to get the lowdown on eating well in the mountains, even when you leave the oven at home. 



This post is part of a series! Read the other two installments of Eating in the Rockies here: 

Eating in the Rockies: Part 2 (Essential Cooking Gear)

Eating in the Rockies: Part 3 (Recipes, Tips, Extras)  


Coming Up: Camping-friendly Recipes

Hey friends! I just returned from a week-long adventure in the mountains (also known as bear-avoidance training) – I’ll be getting to sharing photos, stories and recipes just as soon as I’ve finished getting the campfire smell out of my clothes. 

In the mean time, here are a few shots from my week away. (For more from the mountains, and the occasional behind-the-scenes look at other FoodHappy posts, you’re welcome to check out my shiny new Instagram feed!)

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See you soon, with camping recipes! 

Rainbow(ish) Fruit Popsicles

I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to make fruit popsicles.

I guess I thought it was somehow tricky, even though we all know that popsicles are just frozen juice on a stick (translation: they’re easier to make than they are to mess up). 

Anyway, I got it into my head on Sunday that I should spend the night blending tiny batches of fruit and freezing it, with the goal of creating a set of rainbow-coloured popsicles. This, despite the fact that I’d never before made a fruit popsicle, and that it’s virtually impossible to create the colour blue from fruit. 

But, likely to no one’s surprise (remember that bit about frozen juice on a stick?), it worked. Turns out fruit popsicles aren’t only super-flavourful and refreshing  – they’re also exceedingly simple to make. Blend, decant, freeze, wait – and that’s it. You won’t make blue, but you will make something good

My guess is that you’d be totally fine winging it and inventing popsicle varieties of your own. But if you want a little guidance, here’s how I made mine. 

the-recipe-v2.pngStep 1: Drop your fruit into the bowl of a food processor or blender and pulse until it’s totally smooth. Fresh fruit is easiest to blend, but soft frozen fruits (like raspberries, blackblerries and blueberries) will work too. 

The fruit will decrease in volume slightly when you blend it, so it’s best to start with slightly more than will fit in your popsicle tray. My 8-popsicle tray holds about 2 cups of liquid, so I’ve written the recipes (loosely speaking) accordingly. Adjust as you see fit! And don’t be afraid to make a little extra – it’ll give you room to taste test freely and adjust the flavours. 

Step 2: Immediately after blending, pour your fruit mixture into the trays and pop them into the freezer. Out of the freezer, the sweet fruit juice will start separating from the bland pulp, making for a popsicle that’s only half tasty. 

Step 3: Wait until the popsicles are totally frozen through. Remove from the freezer a couple minutes before you want to serve them. And that’s it! 

Below you’ll fnd the rough proportions I used to make the rainbow flavours, scaled to make about 2 cups each. 

Square-pair.jpgWatermelon + Raspberry
2 cups of chopped fresh watermelon + 1/4 cup fresh or frozen raspberries

Mango + Coconut
1 1/2 cups sweetened mango puree + 1/2 cup coconut milk 
Notes: I could barely taste the coconut in my popsicle, likely in part because I was using light coconut milk. For a more coconutty flavour, try mixing equal parts of mango puree and coconut milk. If you can’t find mango puree, give this recipe a try (scaling it to make 1 1/2 cups). 

Pineapple + Lime
2 slightly heaping cups of chopped fresh pineapple + 1 1/4 tsp lime juice + 3/4 tsp honey

Honeydew + Cream
2 slightly heaping cups of chopped fresh honeydew + 2-4 tbsp whipping cream (to taste)

Blueberry + Raspeberry
1 cup of fruit juice (I used blueberry, but apple or raspberry would work too) + 1 slightly heaping cup of mixed fresh or frozen raspberries and blueberries

Blueberry + Blackberry
1 cup of fruit juice (again, I went for blueberry) + 1 slightly heaping cup of mixed or fresh blueberries and blackberries 

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  • For a less icy popsicle, add a couple tablespoons of yogurt to your fruit mixture before blending. 
  • If you find your popsicle mixture too thick or rich, thin it with water, 1-2 tablespoons at a time, tasting after each addition. 
  • Other fruits that would work well: Strawberries, kiwis, papayas and stonefruit. Freshly-squeezed orange juice would be delicious too (try mixing it with a bit of lemon, lime or grapefruit juice).
  • Raspberries and blackberries are delicious when frozen whole. Try dropping a couple of whole berries into your filled popsicle tray before it hits the freezer.
  • Not big on fruit flavours? Try making popsicles from cold-brewed iced tea
And with that, I bid you happy popsicle making, and leave you with this silly popsicle gif. 
 
Popsicles.gif