Summer is upon us and so is the heat in the Florida Panhandle. Schools are out and the kids are at home needing activities to do together. Homemade Freezer Pops are an excellent source of fun! These popsicles can be secretly healthy and taste absolutely delicious. They don’t have to just be for the kids either, adults of all shapes and sizes can enjoy them too. In this article we will discuss what freezer pops are, how to make them, and a few tips for maximum enjoyment!
What are Freezer Pops?
A freezer pop is a frozen treat that generally comes in a clear, plastic tube. Freezer pops, not to be confused with popsicles which are typically consumed off a wooden popsicle stick, are found in grocery stores in unfrozen liquid form, ready for the consumer to pop them into their freezer at home! Once frozen solid, the consumer picks their flavor of choice, cuts open an end of the plastic tube, and simply squeezes or pushes the sweet ice out of the packaging.
Many of us know these sweet and fruity slushy pops as Otter Pops or Fla-Vor-Ice. These nostalgic treats are simply made from sweetened, colored, and flavored water. With little nutritional value coming from the store-bought version, homemade freezer pops can be much more nutritious. Keep following along to find out how to make these tasty treats!
How to make Homemade Freezer Pops
Freezer pops are super easy to make and are a healthier alternative to the nostalgic treat. Before you get started, you will need all the necessary supplies. Supplies commonly found at home would include a freezer and a blender. Supplies that can be bought at the store are Zipzicles (a freezer pop reusable plastic bag) or silicone ice pop molds, fruit of your choice, and a natural sweetener like honey.
Step 1: Wash your hands! Handwashing is one of the best ways to protect yourself and others from spreading germs. You should wash hands before, during, and after preparing your food. To wash your hands the right way, first wet your hands with warm, clean, running water. Then turn off the tap and apply your soap. Lather your hands (make lots of white foams/bubbles) by rubbing them together with the soap. Make sure you lather the back of your hands, between your fingers, under your nails, and palm of your hands. Scrub for about twenty seconds. (Don’t know how long 20 seconds is? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from the beginning to the end twice!) Finally, rinse your hands well under warm, clean, running water and either dry with a clean towel or air dry. (1)
Step 2: Gather your ingredients to be blended. There are lots of fruits that make great homemade ice pops: watermelon, orange, pineapple, mango, raspberry, honeydew, cantaloupe, and strawberry! (3)
One of my favorite recipes for freezer pops uses 10 ounces of ripe berries, ~½ a cup of water, and 1-2 tablespoons of honey. If the fruit you use is very juicy, you may not have to use as much water but remember, the more water that you use, the icier the pop will become in the freezer. You can also use either lemon or lime juice to add a little flavor boost!. (3) The amount of sweetener needed varies as the sugar content of the berries can vary. If the berries are ripe and sweet, use a little less sweetener. If the berries are not as ripe, simply use a little more sweetener. Then blend all the ingredients together completely, until smooth!
Step 3: Fill individual baggies of your choosing. Make sure to not over fill the bags.
Step 4: Freeze the freezer pops for ~ 2 to 4 hours before enjoying. If you consume them around 2 hours, they may not be as solid as they will be at the 4-hour mark.
Step 5: Enjoy a refreshing treat!
Tips for Homemade Freezer Pops
- The sweetness of the chosen fruit will be muted once frozen. Make sure to use over ripe fruit or added sweetener to keep the treat sweet.
- Use a funnel to fill your freezer pop bags. Using a funnel will keep you from making too much of a mess, and will also help you mind the “maximum fill line” on the bag. If you keep the contents you are pouring into the bag under the line, it will be easier to seal! \
- Just about anything that can be blended or pureed can be used for a freezer pop! Leftover smoothies, various fruit juices, and even sodas make for easy treats! Check out the image below to see flavors others have created! (4)
For National Freezer Pop Day, July 8th, 2021, enjoy making homemade freezer pops with your family! With a snip of the scissors, you’ll produce smiles with every sip. (2)
A youth competing in the NW District Tailgating Competition carefully prepares her protein.
Did you get to do any grilling this summer? Over 110 youth from throughout the Florida Panhandle participated in 2019 4-H summer day camps that taught them how to grill, food and fire safety, and cooking skills.
Ten different FL Panhandle counties provided nine unique day camps on grilling. Then, on July 20, 2019, 37 youth from eight counties participated in the Northwest District Tailgating Contest at the Washington County Ag Center. Youth participated in competitions in beef, pork, poultry, and shrimp divisions and were judged on their food and fire safety skills around the grill and the taste of their chosen protein. In all, $3,200 was awarded to Panhandle youth for placing 1st– 4th in their competitions.
Now, the top two youth in each protein category will compete at the Florida 4-H Tailgating Contest in Gainesville on September 28th. They will compete against youth from across Florida for an opportunity to win college scholarships. For the state contest, the first place winner in each protein area receives a $1,500 college scholarship and the second place winner receives a $1,000 college scholarship. September 28th is also the 4-H Day with the Florida Gators. You can get tickets for the football game for just $20 and sit with 4-H members from around the state. For more information, visit http://florida4h.org/blog/4-h-day-at-florida-gators-football-vs-towson/.
Join us as we cheer on the following NW District 4-H participants as they represent us at the Florida 4-H State Tailgating Contest:
- Beef Division
- Colton Serpas-Washington County
- Alan B.-Escambia County
- Pork Division
- Lillian Sparks-Washington County
- Brent Young-Holmes County
- Poultry Division
- Sarah Crandall-Jefferson County
- Rylee Sweat-Walton County
- Jamison Scheffer-Washington County
- Shrimp Division
- Claire Diamond-Escambia County
- Evelyn Moyers-Bay County
If you are interested in furthering your grilling skills, please check out the Florida 4-H Tailgate Series of EDIS documents at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_series_florida_4-h_tailgate. If you would like more information on the Tailgating Contest so you or youth that you work with can participate next year, please visit http://florida4h.org/programsandevents_/animalscience/4-h-tailgating-contest/.
A 2018 NW District 4-H Tailgating Contest participant prepares to grill
Imagine the smell of a charcoal grill on a breezy summer day. A neighbor is grilling in their backyard, and you wish you were invited over for dinner. Would it be even better if it was your child or grandchild doing the grilling for you?
Fire up Your Grill!
4-H members have been firing up their charcoal grills and participating in the Florida 4-H Tailgating Contest since 2016. Designed to promote the use of animal protein in the diet, youth learn the art and science of safely preparing beef, pork, poultry, and seafood in an outdoor setting providing opportunities for 4-H youth to develop life skills, including decision making and healthy lifestyle choices.
In the Florida 4-H Tailgating Contest, youth grill two, 6-8 ounce portions of one of the following proteins:
- poultry – turkey breast or half chicken
- shrimp – fresh, headless and de-veined
While youth are grilling, judges observe food and fire safety actions and ask questions about the recipe and safety knowledge. A team of judges evaluates the cooked product by taste testing and scoring each entry.
4-H Tailgating District Contest
After youth compete at county contests or participate in day camps, they can register for the district contest. There are four district contests hosted throughout the state including our Northwest District contest held at the Washington County Ag Center on July 20, 2019. Cash prizes at the district level are awarded in each protein category – 1st place $400, 2nd place $250, 3rd place $100 and 4th place $50.
Scholarships and prizes are awarded thanks to these sponsors.
4-H Tailgating State Contest
The top two winners from each protein are then eligible to compete in the state contest held at the University of Florida on September 28, 2019. For the state contest, the 1st place winner in each protein area receives a $1,500 college scholarship and the 2nd place winner receives a $1,000 college scholarship.
Since the Florida 4-H Tailgating contest began in 2016, over $63,000 in scholarship money has been awarded to Florida 4-H members made possible by sponsorships from Winn-Dixie, National Beef, and Sonny’s.
Learn More at a Tailgating Day Camp
Last summer, over 100 youth attended day camps to learn about identifying cuts of meat, preventing food cross contamination and food-borne illnesses, grilling techniques, food safety and fire safety. Contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office to find a grilling day camp near you so you can participate in the 2019 Northwest District 4-H Tailgating Contest! Follow us on Facebook to see event details!
4-H Food Challenge Mystery Basket
Being creative in the kitchen…using a surprise set of ingredients…making a tasty dish…frequent watcher of The Food Network? Then the 4-H Food Challenge camp is the summer day camp for you!
Take a Sneak Peek
Here’s a sample list of possible ingredients in the Fruit & Vegetable category:
- 4 medium potatoes
- 1 cup carrots, sliced
- 1 cup of celery, sliced
- 1 ½ cups green bell pepper strips
- 1/3 cup onions, sliced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tomato, cut into wedges
- 3 tablespoons of canola oil, divided
- ½ cup of water
- 2 tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce
- 1 ½ teaspoons of cornstarch
Any idea what you’d prepare? What would you name your dish?
Participants in the 4-H Food Challenge camp will work in teams with 3 to 4 members. Teams will be presented with:
- a food category
- a set of mystery ingredients
- 40 minutes to create a dish, prepare a presentation about their dish, and clean their work area
When time is up, teams will present their creation to a panel of judges describing their collaboration in creating the dish, food safety practices used by the team, how they worked together, and finally, a description of the dish including some nutrition information.
We all eat, so food safety and preparation are skills that we all need. 4-H Food Challenge campers will learn those skills along with nutrition knowledge, teamwork and presentation skills. Look for this day camp opportunity in your local UF/IFAS Extension 4-H program this summer, and join us in putting our skills to the test!
*The 4-H Food Challenge is loosely based on The Food Network show “Chopped” and adapted from the Texas 4-H Food Challenge Contest.
Youth making blender salsa during Leon County’s 4-H Culinary Camp
Are you having a tough time finding kid-approved snacks? With a little extra planning, you can add extra fruits, vegetables and whole grains to your child’s diet. The following snacks can be included in lunch, enjoyed as an after school snacks or as a great addition to any 4-H club meeting!
It’s quick, easy, delicious AND a whole grain. Stove top popcorn is delicious just with a sprinkle of salt, but kids can get creative by adding toppings like sugar/cinnamon, Parmesan cheese or lemon zest with pepper. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends making half of your grains whole grains each day. Here’s a simple stovetop popcorn recipe for you to try.
This is another great way to get kids involved in creating their own snack mix using a variety of items. The key is to change it up every few weeks to keep kids interested. Suggested items include: chex mix, dried blueberries, raisins, chocolate chips, walnuts, pretzels, whole grain crackers, popcorn, and more. Use this snack mix recipe as inspiration.
Fruit or Vegetable Kebabs
Kids can help put together this great afterschool snack. For fruit kebabs, try grapes, apples, blueberries or kiwi. For vegetable kebabs, try green peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes or yellow squash. They can be simple with only two items such as strawberry and pineapple or cherry tomatoes and broccoli. You can dip the fruit kebabs in vanilla yogurt or drizzle them with honey. A side of ranch or hummus pairs perfectly with vegetable kebabs. The key is to purchase fruits and vegetables that are in-season to make this snack budget friendly. Here is a resource to find out what is in season in Florida.
Let’s be honest, hummus and vegetables might not be at the top of the list of your kid’s favorite snack item. The key is to allow kids to make the hummus and serve it with a variety of items to dip. You can dip carrots, celery, radishes, pretzels, or crackers in hummus. Hummus can be made ahead and stored for a few days sealed tight in the fridge. Here is my favorite hummus recipe.
Here’s another fun way to get kids in the kitchen to make a perfect snack for after school. You can put together this recipe in less than 5 minutes – it’s so easy Try this basic blender salsa recipe, but feel free to add your own inspiration by adding extra ingredients.
Endless recipes make smoothies a great after school snack. You can even pack a smoothie for lunch. To ensure the smoothie stays nice and cold, place the thermos in the freezer the night before. In the morning, pour the freshly made smoothie into the frozen thermos. A personal favorite smoothie of mine is: 1 frozen banana, 1 cup milk, 1 scoop of peanut butter, 1 small scoop of cocoa powder and a handful of spinach. The spinach blends right in (you can’t even taste it), and the cocoa powder hides the color of the spinach.
Whole Grain Muffins
Whole grain muffins are an easy snack to make ahead and enjoy throughout the week. Muffins freeze well and still taste delicious when thawed. You can make chocolate chip, strawberry, blueberry, banana, pumpkin and more. Muffins can also be used as a quick breakfast while you are running out the door. For some extra protein, just add some nut butter, such as peanut or almond. Here is a delicious whole grain blueberry muffin recipe.
To learn more about 4-H’s healthy living goal, find your local UF/IFAS Extension office.
Cooking with Florida Produce
Knowing how to cook and being comfortable in the kitchen is an important life skill that has enduring benefits. Leon County 4-H hosted a culinary day camp with a unique twist: educating youth about Florida produce and local agriculture. In addition to teaching culinary techniques and nutrition, youth learned foundational cooking skills and took things a step further by building connections between local farms and their kitchens.
Teaming up with Fresh from Florida Kids
Chef Paula Kendrick co-led the camp. featuring Florida-grown produce. The importance of nutrition and incorporating healthy foods into the diet was an ongoing theme during the camp. Lessons on how to read food labels, the importance of whole grain and limiting sugar intake were also featured. A salsa cooking competition using local products ended the camp. Chef Paula is from Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services – Fresh from Florida Kids.
Local Farm Highlighted
A visit to Full Earth Farm in Quincy helped youth see how a small local farm operates. Owners Katie Harris and Aaron Suko warmly welcomed the group to their farm and gave them a tour. Florida seasonality, composting benefits and how local farms provide fresh produce to businesses and homes in our area were tour highlights. The group left with a box of fresh summer squash to deliver to their next stop – Damfino’s Cafe and Market. Damfino’s sources local products for their menu items. Owner Lucy and Chef Max spoke to the group about their restaurant’s mission of connecting the local community to local farmers.
During the camp, youth were eager to try all the recipes and many of the campers tried new food items for the first time. Fresh herbs from the 4-H garden were used in a number of the recipes. Rosemary was added to honeydew sorbet, and basil was added to sautéed summer squash.
Healthy Eating is Best Learned in the Kitchen
Chef Paula Kendrick shared, “The students got to visit a Florida farm, eat at a local Florida farm to table restaurant and learn how to handle and cook fresh Florida produce. I love helping them to make that farm to table connection while teaching them about Florida agriculture. Cooking is one of the best ways to actually get them to try new things and to understand the importance of healthy eating and nutrition.”
For more information on healthy living 4-H projects such as cooking, contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension Office.