Cool food: Make your own desserts, snacks, and beverages

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    Berries are frozen into ice cubes.

  • Cucumber shots.
    Cucumber shots.

    Hot summer days call for hydration and refreshment for kids and adults. Lucky for consumers, there are plenty of food and beverage options, many of which are healthy. You don t need to rely on empty calories or high-fat, high-salt, high-calorie foods.

    While it is quite OK to buy a refreshing cool treat occasionally, you can make your own beverage, snack, and dessert creations. Many can be made with ice cream.

    Always store ice cream in the main section of the freezer, not in the door, to avoid disruptions in temperature from opening and closing the door, advises John Kennedy of Blue Bunny ice cream. If you break a cone while applying ice cream, crush the cone and use it as a topping.

    For a quick, elegant dessert, use ice cream to make truffles. Work with super-cold utensils and serve immediately. Scoop 12 small balls of ice cream and place one half walnut in the middle of each truffle as you re scooping. Place truffles on a pre-chilled (frozen) parchment-lined sheet pan. Insert one toothpick into each truffle. Return sheet to freezer. Melt chocolate over double boiler or in the microwave, making sure to melt it slowly and not overheat. Remove truffles from freezer and dip into melted chocolate, then coat with chopped walnuts. Place back on sheet pan and remove toothpicks once chocolate has set. Transfer truffles to chilled serving bowl to minimize melting and serve immediately.

    From Smith s Dairy in Orrville, Ohio, comes the nonalcoholic Strawberry Frozen Moogarita made with strawberry ice cream. Using the light ice cream brand Ruggles Strawberry Churned Premium Light Ice Cream, the company says the cool dessert has half the fat and a third of the calories of regular ice cream.

    Berries are frozen into ice cubes.
    Berries are frozen into ice cubes.

    The Moogarita is made with strawberry ice cream, nonalcoholic margarita mix, strawberries, and lime; each serving glass rim is coated in coarse sugar.

    The Blade also tested Lemon Granita from Gelato! Italian Ice Creams, Sorbetti & Granite by Pamela Sheldon Johns (10 Speed Press, $14.95). It is tart and refreshing. You can freeze it until it s slushy or freeze completely and scrape the granita to serve it.

    New data shows that cookies, which held the top spot the last time snack data was collected in 1987, are now ranked No. 2 after fruit, according to the Produce for Better Health Foundation. The NPD Group, which tracks national eating trends, based its findings on two-week-long food and beverage journals filled out by mothers across the country. From 1985 to 1987, 500 moms participated; 600 took part in the 2005-2007 survey.

    Carbonated soft drinks held the No. 6 spot in popularity in 1987, but didn t make the top 10 this year. Cake also has dropped off the list. Meanwhile, popcorn, which did not appear on the list in 1987, is now ranked No. 6. Popcorn is classified as a whole-grain snack.

    The perception of fruits and vegetables as being healthy foods continues to grow year after year, so it is not surprising to find fresh fruit and vegetables a cool food idea.

    Even canned fruit is good for snacks. Peach Yogurt Pops are easy summer snacks made with canned peaches and low-fat fruit-flavored yogurt that is blended, poured into cups, and frozen (when partially frozen, a wooden stick or plastic spoon is placed in the center of each cup, and cups are returned to the freezer).

    Make a zesty fruit salsa with seasonal tomatoes and/or fresh fruit, such as a peach salsa, corn salsa, or tomato-lime salsa with cucumber and avocado.

    Serve the salsas with tortilla chips or use an edible shot glass made from a cucumber cut into 2-to-3-inch pieces. This idea comes from Slurp: Drinks and Light Fare, All Day, All Night by Nina Dreyer Hensley, Jim Hensley, and Paul Lowe (Andrews McMeel, $16.99). Use a teaspoon or a melon baller and hollow out the top portion of each cucumber piece. Place the cucumber pieces on a plate and fill with salsa, cool soup, or a beverage.

    Strawberry Frozen Moogarita.
    Strawberry Frozen Moogarita.

    A second idea from Slurp is tasty frozen ice cubes with berries and herbs frozen inside. Fill an ice cube tray with blueberries, raspberries, or mint. Top with water and freeze. Not only do these ice cubes keep a drink cold, they provide extra flavor and color.

    Juices also make great frozen cubes, including orange, cranberry, and pineapple. When you make ice cubes from orange, lemon, or lime zest, it gives the drink a sour twist.

    Cranberry juice is a great way to cool off. It also gives other beverages a shot of color, flavor, and antioxidants, whether you use the juice or cranberry juice ice cubes. Combine cranberry juice with iced tea or lemonade for a little extra flavor and color.

    Iced tea can also be paired with honey and cranberry-raspberry juice for Honey Raspberry Iced Tea. If it s available, use raspberry honey, which is light amber in color with a mellow, smooth raspberry finish. If you can t find raspberry honey, clover honey may be used. Combine 2 cups freshly brewed tea with 2 cups cranberry-raspberry juice and cup honey. In a large, heat-proof pitcher, whisk together all ingredients until thoroughly combined and honey dissolves. Chill until ready to serve. Pour over ice to serve. Makes 4 servings.

    Pitcher drinks and punches are also great to serve when entertaining and for adult parties. Banana Berry Punch from Sangria & Pitcher Drinks by Kim Haasarud (Wiley, $16.95) can be made nonalcoholic or with berry-flavored vodka or rum.

    Sangria is a party-bowl concoction which mixes wine, fresh fruit, and often a spirit such as brandy, triple sec, etc. Sangria can include any fruit from mango, peach, grapes, berries, peach, or kiwi, writes the author. Red sangria is usually made with a Spanish wine like rioja but a syrah, chianti or sangiovese also hold up to lots of fruits and flavors. For a white sangria, pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc is recommended.

    Contact Kathie Smith at: or 419-724-6155.