Cauliflower in disguise

During the cold weather months, soup is the go-to menu item on Monday nights. When the weather turns warmer, Monday becomes salad night.

Because that darn groundhog predicted a few more weeks of winter a while back, soup is still the choice for a while. I’ve developed a rotating series of soup recipes over the years, and one of my favorites is Potato Soup. But this potato soup recipe is disguising a big dose of extra nutrition — cauliflower. The average eater would not realize that the base is made of what is basically creamed cauliflower.

I use either a food processor or grater to pulverize the cauliflower, simmer it in some chicken broth and then use an immersion blender to pulverize it into a smooth base. Then I add all my favorite potato soup ingredients — diced potatoes, onion and celery and cubed ham, simmering it all together until the veggies are tender.

If you don’t have ham, it’s good without, or perhaps add a sprinkling of chopped bacon at the end. You can also add cheese at the end for Potato-Cheese Soup.

Here’s the recipe:

Hidden Cauliflower Potato Soup

1 medium to large head cauliflower

32 ounces chicken broth

2 large (or 3 medium) potatoes, cut into cubes

3/4 cup diced onion

1 cup diced celery

1 1/2 cups diced ham

3/4 cup half and half or milk

2 tablespoons cornstarch (optional, depending on soup thickness)

Salt and pepper

Use a large box grater or food processor to finely chop the cauliflower. Put the cauliflower crumbs in a large pot with the chicken broth and cook until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Use an immersion blender to puree the cauliflower-broth mixture until completely smooth, You could also use a blender for this step, pureeing in batches.

Add the potato, onion and celery and ham, simmer for about 20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

If the soup at this point is too thin, add the cornstarch to the cream or milk and stir into soup. Otherwise just add the cream/milk. Add your choice of cheese at this point, if desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper Heat through and serve.

Let the preparations begin!

I just finished peeling almost 5 pounds of potatoes.

Yes, Thanksgiving preparations have begun, even though Thursday’s feast will only be for 2 — Hubby Bryan and me.

And yet I still peeled 5 pounds of potatoes. And several days in advance?

You betcha! We love leftovers.

The potatoes are for one of my all-time favorite recipes from the “Mixing & Musing Cookbook.” Refrigerator Mashed Potatoes are a must-have for any of my family’s holiday meals, and it’s been that way for about as long as I can remember. Once my mom discovered this make-ahead version of mashed potatoes, she never made them any other way. And the beauty, especially for this year, is that the potatoes will stay good in the refrigerator for 10 days, hence the 5 pounds of spuds for only 2 of us.

If this sounds familiar to those who have followed this blog for a while, it’s because this is my annual attempt to win everyone over to the two best Thanksgiving recipes ever, at least in my opinion: Refrigerator Mashed Potatoes and Slow Cooker Stuffing.

By now, some of you are converts, but I know there are still many who have not given these two time-savers (and oven-space-savers in the case of the stuffing) a try. And the stuffing is not only a cinch to make in the slow cooker, it is also simply delicious.

So here, once again, are the two recipes. And this year, I’m throwing in a bonus dessert recipe. Personally, I’m not enamored of pumpkin pie, but this frozen version — which, again, can be made several days in advance — will please both pumpkin lovers and pumpkin detractors.

Refrigerator Mashed Potatoes

Peel 5 pounds (10 large) potatoes and cook in boiling salted water until tender; drain. Mash until smooth (no lumps).

Add 6 ounces cream cheese (or lower fat Neufchatel), 1 cup dairy sour cream (I prefer the light version or Greek yogurt), 2 teaspoons onion salt, 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Beat until light and fluffy. Cool. Cover and place in refrigerator.

May be used anytime within 10 days. Place desired amount in a greased casserole, dot with butter and bake in 350 degree oven until heated through, 30 to 60 minutes, depending on size of dish.

Slow Cooker Stuffing

In 1 cup butter, saute 1 cup chopped onion and 2 cups chopped celery. Remove mixture from stove and stir in 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning and 2 teaspoons dried sage.

In a large bowl, combine 12 cups dried bread pieces with the butter-vegetable mixture.

Beat 2 eggs and combine with 3 to 4 cups chicken broth; pour over bread and stir well to combine.

Place mixture in slow cooker and cook on low for 4 hours. (I turn it up to high for about 1 hour in order to get the crispy stuff around the edges.)

Frozen Pumpkin Delight

Combine 3 cups graham cracker crumbs with 3/4 cup melted butter; press into a 9- by 13-inch pan. Freeze crust.

Combine 2 cups pumpkin, 2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 cup brown sugar. Mix well. Add 2 quarts softened vanilla ice cream. Stir and pour over crust. Freeze. Let stand a short time before serving.

For sauce: Combine in double boiler 1/2 cup butter, 2 2/3 cups brown sugar 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1/2 cup cream. Cook over hot water 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Top each serving with some of this sauce and then a dollop of whipped cream. (Alternately, buy a jar of butterscotch sauce, heat in microwave and drizzle over top.)

Bag O’ Cookies

Unless you are on a REALLY strict diet or are allergic to chocolate, it’s my belief that you should have a small stash of chocolate somewhere in your house. I’m not saying you should indulge in full-size candy bars. But a little bite of something dark and decadent can go a long way in improving one’s mood.

In my case, it’s an inherited belief. DotMom ALWAYS had a stash of chocolate somewhere in her kitchen. Whether or not her kids knew its location is debatable. I’m pretty sure she had public stashes and secret stashes that we never found.

For many years, the public stash consisted of these cookies, for which I am about to share the recipe. Or at least the recipe as I remember and may have slightly embellished over the years.

Because she raised a couple of picky eaters among her three children, DotMom was always trying to find ways to incorporate ingredients she deemed healthy into things she knew we would eat. So, in her chocolate chip cookie recipe, there was oatmeal — because my brother and I weren’t about to eat it for breakfast.

And in this particular no-bake cookie, there is granola. This recipe made its appearance in our household at the height of the granola craze — probably in the 1970s. Granola was the ultimate health food at the time. So she put it in cookies.

I have no idea if she came up with this chocolate drop cookie on her own or borrowed the idea from somewhere. But there was almost always a stash of these cookies in the refrigerator at 406 Galena St.

And now, there is quite often a gallon-sized plastic bag full of these cookies in the back of my refrigerator. Each little cookie is the perfect little chocolate-craving-satisfying morsel of goodness.

As far as I know, DotMom never wrote this recipe down. And for the most part, it’s one of those that’s just been in my head for the last 40+ years. Recipes such as this one are largely the result of eyeballing the ingredients.

But for you, I am writing it down as I sneak another one from my own refrigerator stash. To get through another windy and rainy day will definitely require some chocolate.

No-Bake Chocolate Craving Cookies

One 12-ounce bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
One 12-ounce bag butterscotch chips
3/4 cup chopped nuts (I often use toasted pecans, because I have them on had, but I have also used dry-roasted peanuts; any favorite nut will work.)
1/2 cup English toffee bits (optional — this is my contribution to the recipe, but not necessary)
10 ounces (approximately) of a basic oats and honey granola — I use Cascadian Farm

Prepare a couple of sheet pans by covering with either parchment paper or waxed paper.

Dump the chocolate and butterscotch chips into a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 1 minute; stir. Continue to microwave in 15-second intervals, stirring between, until the chips are all melted and smooth.

Add in the nuts, toffee bits if using, and then gradually the granola, stirring to coat, until it is all coated in the chocolate mixture and there doesn’t appear to be much excess chocolate.

Use a teaspoon to drop small bite-sized mounds of the mixture onto the prepared sheet pans. I usually get 90-100 cookies by making them quite small — the perfect bite!

Place pans in the refrigerator or freezer until the chocolate is completely firmed up. Place cookies in a gallon-size plastic bag and store in the refrigerator. They aren’t necessarily pretty, but they are crunchy and delilcious!

Mama Mia! Now that’s a spicy meatball!

A mixture of ground beef and ground pork was used in this batch.

With Easter just a week away, I should have been making Ham Balls, our family’s traditional holiday entree. But in the midst of the current pandemic, my mind wasn’t on the holiday ahead when I decided to make something that would generate a few meals out of the freezer. So instead of Ham Balls, I made Freezer Meatballs, aka Make Ahead Meatballs, or as I have titled them here, Mama Mia Meatballs.

I sometimes succumb to taking the easy way out and buy premade meatballs from the grocery store freezer section. But these are so much better and so worth it when you end up with the makings for several meals in the freezer.

I probably have shared this recipe  before, but it is worth repeating, especially during this time when people can’t eat out and are looking for meal ideas. I suggest you stockpile some of these instead of paper products!

This recipe makes a pretty big batch of meatballs. But it’s an easy one to divide in order to make a smaller batch or add to for a really big batch. It’s basically 1 egg and ½ cup of bread crumbs for each pound of ground meat. This time I used a combination of pork and beef equaling about 3 pounds of meat.  

Mama Mia Meatballs

4 pounds lean ground meat (beef, pork, turkey, chicken, or combination)

2 cups Italian-seasoned bread crumbs

1 cup finely chopped onion

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

4 eggs

1 ½ tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the meat, bread crumbs, chopped onion and garlic. In a small mixing bowl, beat the eggs with the Worcestershire, salt and pepper. Pour over meat and combine thoroughly but without overmixing.

Use a large cookie scoop to form the meat mixture into balls, being careful not to pack them too tightly. Place on parchment-paper-lined baking sheets.

Bake for 10 minutes on the bottom rack of the oven so that meatballs brown and caramelize on the bottom. Turn over and bake for about 5 minutes more.

Remove from the oven and place on paper toweling or cooling rack. Once cool, place back on a baking sheet that has been lined with clean parchment paper and put in the freezer until frozen solid.

Store in freezer bags or containers.

I use these mostly to make spaghetti and meatballs or meatball sandwiches, but have also done Swedish meatballs with a cream sauce and egg noodles. I remove the number of meatballs I need from the freezer bag and drop right into the sauce to cook. 

Makes about 80 meatballs.

Meatballs ready to go in the oven.
A cookie scoop helps make the meatballs of uniform size.
The cooked meatballs are placed on clean parchment paper and frozen in a single layer before being transferred to freezer bags.

Baking up a storm

Mexican Hot Chocolate Brownies have a big hit of cinnamon and a hint of heat.

As I look out the window of our house right now, all I can see is a sea of white. Yes, our part of the world is in the middle of a whiteout, a blizzard, a snowstorm. It’s downright nasty outside, and only rarely does a vehicle venture down our usually well-traveled street.

Most businesses are closed, and the snow continues to fall thickly from the sky, only to swirl around in a haze, deposit briefly on the driveway before the wind catches it once again.

I did go into work for a while today until the threat of getting stuck in a snowbank finally sent me on my way home. And there is some work that can, of course, be done from home on this snowbound weekend.

But a Minnesota blizzard brings out the baker in me. I felt the need to preheat the oven and figure out what would satisfy the need to bake something …. something … something chocolate! Aha! There’s a brownie mix in the cupboard. What can I do with that?

The result of that pondering came out of the oven just a little bit ago, and of course Hubby Bryan and I have already stolen a little corner out of the still-steaming pan of semi-molten goodness that I’m calling Mexican Hot Chocolate Brownies. Sooooo good. And soooo satisfying on this blizzardy day.

This recipe is the result of looking up brownie mix hacks on the Internet and my own “what can I do with that” ingenuity. And I highly recommend the approach. There are any number of online sights that offer hints for making a boxed mix taste more like made-from-scratch. I utilized a couple of those ideas, threw in some cinnamon and chipotle — yes, chipotle — powder for a hint of heat, as well as half a bag of toffee chips found in the cupboard. Here’s the resulting recipe, upon which I nibble as a resume looking out at the snow-covered world outside. My urge to bake is satisfied.

Note: I had some fresh high-quality Penzey’s (my favorite spice company) Vietnamese cinnamon in the cupboard. I suspect it’s a bit more potent than the run-of-the-mill grocery store cinnamon. If your cinnamon is generic or past its prime, you might want to up the amount to 2 1/2 teaspoons.

Mexican Hot Chocolate Brownies

1 box dark chocolate brownie mix
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk, plus 2 tablespoons
1/4 cup cooking oil
1/4 cup melted butter
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Scant 1 teaspoon ground chipotle powder or chili powder
4 ounces brickle toffee bits

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the brownie mix, eggs, milk, oil and butter until just blended. Stir in the cinnamon, chili powder and toffee bits.

Spread the batter evenly into a greased 9- by 13-inch pan.

Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Let cool before cutting into squares.

Pa rum pa pum rum

A recent conversation in the office at the Nobles County Historical Society got me thinking about favorite Christmas recipes. Our family recently donated a copy of the Dorthy Rickers’ “Mixing & Musing Cookbook” to the NCHS collection, and I was showing a co-worker some of my favorite recipes.

DotMom was, of course, an avid Christmas baker. There were baking binges that resulted in sugar cookies, gingerbread men, thumbprint cookies filled with lemon icing, chocolate-mint brownies, cranberry cookies … I’m sure I could think of many more if I continued to search my memory — or paged through the aforementioned cookbook. Once I got my driver’s license, I was pressed into service delivering trays of such goodies to friends all across town.

My own baking isn’t nearly as extensive. I don’t make dozens of cookies to share. I tend more toward crafted gifts than baked gifts.

Still, there are a couple recipes from the book that I tend to make each and every year, either to share with co-workers or for dessert at a holiday gathering. In recent years, more often than not, it’s been the rum cake from page 251 of “Mixing & Musing,” that’s been my must-have holiday baked good of choice.

Back in my days as Lifestyles editor at the Daily Globe, many companies regularly sent out product samples. One memorable year, a well-known liquor company sent me one of their commercially-made rum cakes, which was liberally doused with the libation. Since many of my co-workers were aware that this package had arrived, I dutifully contributed it to the potluck table on holiday treat day. I think more than one person got a little tipsy off that cake. 

So, if I bring my own rum cake to such an event, I make sure to cook the syrupy glaze thoroughly to burn off most of the alcohol.

What I like about this recipe is that it’s festive without being outright Christmasy. It’s impressive without being complicated. It also gives me an excuse to use my bundt pan. It fits perfectly on the “Season’s Greetings” plate I inherited from DotMom.

And, of course, it’s delicious.

I have experimented a bit with the recipe, mainly due to happenstance. When grocery shopping a couple years ago, I accidentally grabbed a cheesecake pudding mix instead of vanilla. I didn’t want to go back to the store, so I used the cheesecake flavor and found it to be delicious. I also didn’t have enough white rum one year, so substituted spiced rum for part of it with good results. So feel free to use whatever rum variety you have on hand, as long as it fits with your preferred flavor profile. You just might get darker streaks through the cake with either dark or spiced varieties. 

Pa Rum Pa Pum Rum Cake

½ cup chopped pecans (optional)

1 package yellow cake mix

1 package instant vanilla or cheesecake pudding

½ cup rum 

½ cup oil

½ cup water

4 eggs

For glaze:

1 stick butter

1 cup sugar

¼ cup rum

¼ cup water

Spray a bundt pan thoroughly with cooking spray. Sprinkle with chopped nuts if desired.

Combine the cake mix, pudding mix, ½ cup rum, oil, ½ cup water and eggs. Beat for 8 minutes. 

Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes, or until the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Serve the Rum Cake with a dollop of whipped cream.

Meanwhile, combine the glaze ingredients in a small pan and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.

Use a skewer or clean knitting needle to poke holes in the hot cake. Pour the hot glaze over the cake while still in the pan, allowing the mixture to run down into the holes and sides of the cake. Cool for about 30 minutes before removing from pan.

Get serious about sides

Where do turkeys go to dance?

The Butterball!

Why did the turkey cross the road?

To prove it wasn’t chicken!

Why did they let the turkey join the Thanksgiving band?

Because it had the drumsticks!

Last year, when I was working as a paraprofessional in a first-grade classroom, I would have enjoyed sharing these Thanksgiving-themed jokes with my students. I always tried to remember silly jokes to tell them during lunch hour in the cafeteria.

Now that I’m working for the Nobles County Historical Society, I don’t have as much call for jokes such as these, so you get to be my audience and groan at these Thanksgiving puns.

But I take one aspect of the Thanksgiving meal very seriously — the side dishes.

So here, once again, as has become a pre-Thanksgiving tradition, are my two favotie make-ahead Thanksgiving side dishes. If you haven’t tried stuffing/dressing in the slow cooker, or refrigerator mashed potatoes that can be made ahead and stay good in the refrigerator for days after the big feast, you are missing out on an opportunity to make the cooking for Thanksgiving a little easier on yourself.

And while those recipes are repeats, I’m including a new recipe for using some of the leftover turkey after Thanksgiving. It comes from my sister Margaret Hinchey of Englewood, Co. While having dinner at some friends’ house, the hostess, Susan Mroch, mentioned that her favorite leftover turkey recipe is Turkey Curry, so Margaret asked her for the recipe, then made it herself a few nights later and reported that it was indeed delicious.  She even took a picture of it that I’ve shared with the recipe.

Slow Cooker Stuffing

In 1 cup butter, saute 1 cup chopped onion and 2 cups chopped celery. Remove mixture from stove and stir in 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning and 2 teaspoons dried sage.

In a large bowl, combine 12 cups dried bread pieces with the butter-vegetable mixture.

Beat 2 eggs and combine with 3 to 4 cups chicken broth; pour over bread and stir well to combine.

Place mixture in slow cooker and cook on low for 4 hours. (I turn it up to high for about 1 hour in order to get the crispy stuff around the edges.)

Refrigerator Mashed Potatoes

Peel 5 pounds (10 large) potatoes and cook in boiling salted water until tender; drain. Mash until smooth (no lumps).

Add 6 ounces cream cheese (or lower fat Neufchatel), 1 cup dairy sour cream (I prefer the light version or Greek yogurt), 2 teaspoons onion salt, 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Beat until light and fluffy. Cool. Cover and place in refrigerator.

May be used anytime within 10 days. Place desired amount in a greased casserole, dot with butter and bake in 350 degree oven until heated through, 30 to 60 minutes, depending on size of dish.

Turkey Curry

3 tablespoons butter

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped onion

1 large clove garlic, chopped

4 to 6 mushrooms, finely chopped

2 to 4 tablespoons curry powder

Turkey Curry

¼ cup flour

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 cups turkey broth

1 cup heavy cream

3 cups cubed turkey

Saute the celery, onion, garlic and mushrooms in the butter until tender. Stir in flour, curry powder and tomato paste. Whisk in the turkey broth.

Cook 45 minutes to 1 hour. Add in the cream and turkey and bring to a boil. Serve with rice.

Candy + cupcakes

Sometimes ingredients you have in the cupboard come together to make something magical.

Such was the case last week, when I decided to experiment with some cupcakes for a birthday celebration at work. I had volunteered to bring something sweet and had cupcakes in mind. But what I had in the cupboard was a brownie mix. Brownie cupcakes? I pondered the possibility and did a little Internet sleuthing.

Sure enough, there were a multitude of posts about cupcakes made with a brownie mix. But one especially caught my eye, because it incorporated peanut butter cups into the batter for a surprise in the middle of each cupcake.

And guess what else I had in the cupboard? Halloween candy — a variety pack that included peanut butter cups. But the assortment also had peppermint patties, so why not try some mint ones, too? Both varieties were delicious and were gobbled up quickly by the birthday crew.

I haven’t tried other candy bars but any creamy chocolate-based bar that would melt would likely work: Snickers and Milky Way bars seem like other good options,

You probably still have Halloween candy in the house, whether it’s your child’s stash of goodies or the remainder that didn’t get passed out to trick-or-treaters. Either way, this recipe is worth diving into the stockpile.

If you are using the Halloween-size miniature candy bars, use half of one for each cupcake. Or if you’ve got the really small miniature peanut butter cups, use a whole one per cupcake.

Candy Bar Brownie Cupcakes

One family-sized brownie mix (I used Pillsbury)

eggs, per box directions

oil, per box directions

water, per box directions

9 Halloween-sized miniature peanut butter cups or peppermint patties, cut in half

Line 18 muffin tins with cupcake liners. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare brownie batter according to package directions. If you want more cake-like brownies, add an extra egg.

Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full of batter. Press a candy bar half into each cup until it is submerged in batter. Use a toothpick or spoon to smooth some batter over the top of the candy if necessary.

Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes; do not overbake. Let cool for about 10 minutes before removing from pan.

Makes 18 cupcakes.

To- MAY-to, To-MAH-to

The pile of tomatoes on the countertop has reduced in size by half. The remaining ones will soon be blanched and put into freezer bags for some down-the-road use,

I know from gardener friends that many of them are dealing with an overabundance of tomatoes. That’s how I came by the countertop pile — I didn’t even plant a patio tomato this year, The tomatoes are all courtesy of gardening friends who have shared the wealth.,

One such friend is Vicki Klaassen of Little Rock, Iowa. Vicki is the bookkeeper at the Nobles County Historical Society, where I am now employed as executive director. Vicki planted what appears now to be an excessive number of tomato plants, and she has been both preserving them for future use and eagerly sharing the bounty.

Now I’ve never been brave enough to try canning any garden produce. I have memories of my mother doing some canning, most notably the overwhelming smell when she “put up” tomatoes or made homemade tomato juice to be canned and the cloud of moisture that hung over the kitchen. It was a hot, smelly and labor-intensive process, it seemed to me. (Can you see my nose wrinkling in disgust?) Thus, I’ve never been inclined to attempt it myself.

I’m more of a freezer — and even that in limited quantities. But I do like the idea of having the basis for a quick-to-the-table meal stashed in the freezer. So when Vicki raved about a spaghetti sauce recipe that she made in the slow cooker and then froze in containers, I eagerly asked for the recipe.

Now I have four containers of from-scratch spaghetti sauce in the freezer and a smaller pile of tomatoes on the counter.

The most interesting part of the spaghetti sauce is the method Vicki used: She put the mixture in the slow cooker and cooked it all night long with the top off the slow cooker so the liquid would evaporate and the sauce would thicken. I wasn’t brave enough to leave the slow cooker on high all night with the top off, but I did leave it on low and then turned it back up to high for a while the next morning. The sauce did indeed thicken nicely, so much so that I will likely thin it out a bit before serving, either with some water or maybe a little red wine.

So here’s the sauce as I made it. Vicki and I have talked about exchanging cartons to see how our versions compare. She processed her tomatoes, skins and all in the food processor; I chose to blanch and peel mine before processing. I added crushed red pepper flakes, she has oregano in hers.

Slow Cooker Spaghetti Sauce

12 cups tomatoes, which have been cored, seeded and run through the food processor (I also peeled the tomatoes by cutting a small X in the bottom of each one and dipping into a pot of boiling water. The peel should slip off easily. Vicki says this step is not necessary — she processed the tomatoes peel and all.)

1 cup chopped onion

1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 tablespoons salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons dried basil

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder

1/3 cup sugar

Three 6-ounce cans tomato paste

3 tablespoons cornstarch, mixed with a small amount of water to make a slurry

Combine all ingredients in the slow cooker, stirring well to combine. Cover and cook on high until the mixture comes to a good simmer. Remove lid from slow cooker and continue to cook until mixture has thickened and color has deepened, either overnight on low/medium as I did or for at least 4 hours on high.

Let sauce cool, remove bay leaves, then package in freezer containers or bags; label and freeze.

Key Lime Pie on a stick

Yesterday it was hot and humid.

Today it is rainy and a bit cooler — but still humid, of course.

Yesterday I craved something citrus and frozen on a stick.

Today since it’s raining, I have time to write about something citrus and frozen on a stick.

But I know — despite all the back-to-school sales and school supplies dominating the store aisles — that there are still some warm summer days ahead. And today might be a good day to stock up the freezer with some frozen confections for those hotter days.

Personally, I’m a sucker for anything citrus, particularly when it is hot outside. So when I saw this recipe — and thought about how I could tweak it a bit to suit my own tastes — I knew I had to make some of these pudding pops. The resulting product is refreshing and indulgent at the same time. It’s like having a piece of Key Lime Pie on a stick.

But I can also see the possibilities of other flavors, using other flavors of pudding, of course, and rummaging through the cupboard for some other add-ins. Staying in the citrus realm, there’s lemon, of course, with lemon juice and zest. But I could also envision chocolate or butterscotch with mini chocolate chips, or how about strawberry cheesecake, with some pieces of strawberry mixed in?

Here’s my version of Key Lime Pudding Pops. If you can’t find the cheesecake pudding mix, vanilla works, too — just not quite as decadent.

Key Lime Pudding Pops

One 3.4-ounce package instant cheesecake pudding mix

3/4 cup milk

⅔ cup key lime juice (or regular lime juice if key lime not available)

One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1 tablespoon finely grated lime zest

In a bowl, combine the pudding mix with the milk and lime juice, whisking thoroughly. Stir in the condensed milk and lime zest.

Pour mixture into popsicle molds or paper cups. (I gave mine a very light coating of vegetable oil spray.

Freeze until solid. To unmold, run under warm water, or I’ve found that it’s easiest to unmold just one or two by dipping just the ends into a small glass of warm water for about 30 seconds.

Makes 10-12 pudding pops, depending on mold size.