At the end of a long hot summer day, the last place Allison Robicelli wants to find herself is standing in front of a hot oven. Allison and her husband Matt are the mad geniuses behind Robicelli’s Bakery in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, as well as the bestselling, fun-to-read-even-if-you-aren’t-baking cookbook Robicelli’s: A Love Story, with Cupcakes. Since they spend their days cooking and baking, the ideal summer treat for themselves and their two sons are these completely heat-free, fuss-free frozen fruit pops. As an extra bonus, the boys can customize them to their own tastes. The result? Even the fussiest kids end up happy and eating healthy at the same time.
Born and bred in Brooklyn, Allison spent her early summers enjoying family barbecues and playing in alleys with neighborhood kids, hosing each other down when the temperature got unbearable. She’s an advocate of “up and out” when it gets too hot to stay in a sweaty apartment, and is more likely to spend a summer day exploring the museums of Manhattan or going on a road trip than lounging on a hot beach.
Summers to Allison also mean getting a taste of her father’s specialty: spiedini. For years he didn’t want to make it because it takes over three hours to prepare, requiring the freezing and slicing of roast beef, and then dredging, seasoning, and baking. “But it’s delicious!” she protested, when he explained the time involved. Her summer recipe for fruit pops provides the ultimate contrast: they can be made in about 10 minutes, then get popped into the freezer for the night. No timers, no watching, no overcooking concerns. (But we still want to try that spiedini.)
For the Robicelli's fruit pops, you can use any fruit you like (see tips below) and then bask in the air conditioning while your freezer does the rest. That’s perfect for Allison who runs a business, writes up a storm (on her own blog as well as guest turns on Food52, Eater NY, Nona Brooklyn, and more), does occasional TV appearances (like teaching Nick Lachey how to make coconut macaroons on VH1, or competing on Chopped), and is well known for her hands-on activism. After Hurricane Sandy, she mobilized volunteers looking for ways to help, providing endless stacks of sandwiches for the displaced and hungry, and the Robicellis’ apartment became a gathering place for donations of clothes, toys, water, toiletries, and other supplies. So don’t think of these easy-to-make fruit pops as an option for the lazy, but rather as an ideal choice for the "very, very busy."
Allison’s one word of warning: if you like your teeth, stay away from blueberries! They turn rock solid when you freeze them.
Fruit you like
5-oz paper cups
1. Pick out fruit you like. Soft, watery fruits work best, so yes to peaches, plums, strawberries, kiwis and grapes! And boo to things like apples − while delicious, they just don't freeze all that well. One of my kids only likes fruits that are red, so we use cherries, strawberries, and bits of watermelon. The other one likes green things, so we do kiwi and grapes for his.
2. Cut up the fruit into tiny pieces. Arrange it in a small paper cup however you'd like: you could do layers if you want a striped pattern, or mix it up if you'd like your popsicles to have a more "stained glass" look. Fill the cup about 3/4 of the way full.
3. Pour organic lemonade over the fruit until it covers it by 1/8". You could also use juice for this step, or iced tea. Really, the sky's the limit here, people. The most important thing is to use something that will trick your children into eating fresh fruit.
4. Cover the cup with a small piece of aluminum foil, and cut a slit in the center to insert a Popsicle stick. Freeze until frozen. When ready to serve, peel off paper.