Friday, July 31, 2015

Grace's Ice Pops

Nothing beats a home made frozen treat!

Since 1993, American Girl Magazine has been publishing bimonthly magazines full of articles aimed at eight to fourteen year old girls. While originally the magazine had slightly more of a focus on history and the doll line sold by the company - several short stories about the older characters like Molly and Samantha were first published in the magazine before being released as small hardback books - it eventually became less connected specifically to the doll line and the historical characters, and now mostly focuses on the experiences of average, modern girls.

One thing that hasn't changed is their enthusiasm for sharing easy recipes for kids to make themselves, or with the help of a parent. What we're making today are two recipes I remember from an issue of the magazine I read sometime around 1997 and have never been able to get out of my head. Amazing what some decent food photography can do to keep something floating around like that!

One of the most disappointing moments of my transition from being a kid to being a teenager (okay, maybe this is slightly hyperbole) was realizing I'd kind of outgrown American Girl Magazine. I don't remember if this was a conscious choice of my parents to cancel my subscription - which I technically shared with my younger sister - or if the company finally just stopped reminding us to renew when I got to be too old, but I definitely remember feeling bummed out that I wasn't going to be getting the magazine anymore.

Getting a new magazine in the mail was always exciting, and my sister and I would wait impatiently for whoever got it first to finish reading it so we could take our turn. My elementary school library stocked back issues and current copies of the magazine too, which were always fun to look at with my friends when we had free time during our library period. I was always a fan of the Amelia stories by Marissa Moss, and I definitely remember enthusiastically reading the advice columns.

But I think I'm not alone in thinking that the best part were the craft, party and recipe ideas each magazine featured. Not every magazine would have each topic featured, but I definitely remember going through issues and fantasizing about making cool crafts for people as gifts, or throwing an awesome back to school party. Did I actually have the enthusiasm to do most of these projects? Absolutely not, but I did have a slumber party for my tenth birthday that was basically straight from American Girl Magazine. If only I'd kept that issue! All I really remember is that we made plush toys out of socks, and I'm sure I still have mine around somewhere. I'm kind of a packrat with things like that.

Also, most things. I really need to go through some of the boxes I've put in the attic over the years...

This habit of hanging onto things forever apparently doesn't apply to my old issues of the magazine, though! What Grace is looking through in the above picture is one of two old AG Magazines we still have in the house from when my sister and I were getting them in the mail. I know we used to keep every issue we got, but at some point, we did a purge, and these were the only survivors. Ah well. That doesn't change how big an impression some of the stories and articles left on me!

The article I remember the most clearly was a summer time themed spread called "Frosty Bites", giving you simple recipes to make your own frozen desserts. American Girl recipes that are featured in the magazine - and occasionally on their Facebook page - are traditionally super simple and rely on a lot of premade ingredients. Instead of expecting kids to make their own from scratch cake, or trying to talk them through it, it'll just say use cake mix or store bought chocolate cake. Many of them at least attempt to be a little bit healthy, and this is especially true of the more recent examples I've seen on their facebook page. Sometimes, this baffles me, because if you're making something and calling it a frozen grape float, might as well use soda and not grape juice, right? Is that really going to be significantly healthier?

In addition to the (to me, anyway) slightly bizarre grape float, this spread featured a pop that had peanut putter, strawberry yogurt and chocolate paired together, a ring of pineapple with a strawberry glued to it with the help of chocolate dip, and a pop that was literally just a store bought cake roll cut into slices, stuck on a skewer and frozen. Pretty simple, right?

The one I decided to make today was called the Chilly Vanilly, and it looks delightfully patriotic without being over the top:

All you need is one cup of premade vanilla pudding, a half cup of your favorite berries (the original recipe used blueberries and raspberries, so that's what we went for) and two tablespoons of whipped cream. This all gets mixed together, and then spooned into three ounce plastic cups, or your handy new popsicle makers. If you're making them in a plastic cup, remember to put in a popsicle stick!

The original recipe instructs you to place berries on the bottom of your cup before putting in the rest of the pudding mixture, as this adds a nice finishing touch to the frozen pop, but my ice pop molds were way too small to do that well, and were honestly kind of a pain in the butt to get totally filled up with this mixture. Guess we'll need to do some experimenting when it comes to our next icy experiment with this particular gadget!

These are left to freeze overnight, and to get them out of the holder, run the cup or mold under some warm water and keep tugging at it. It might take some effort, but eventually it'll come free and you'll be left with an easy treat!

I have to admit, I liked these a lot more than I thought I would. There's nothing mind blowing about them really, but something about frozen pudding and fresh frozen berries was just a really pleasant combination on a hot day. This is totally something a kid could make by themselves with zero adult help or supervision, and although it's not the healthiest thing you could be eating for dessert, the berries do at least make this a slightly less guilty pleasure than certain Nutella lava mug cakes I'm acquainted with...

But while this was a fun throwback with a recipe I'd always wanted to try and never got around to, my favorite pop from this spread I actually have made more than once! The first recipe featured in "Frosty Bites" was appropriately titled Snowballs, and was literally just marshmallows with their tops dunked in chocolate shell and sprinkled with nonpareils. I wanted to try these out for myself pretty much the second I opened the magazine, and remember convincing my parents to get me the ingredients more than once when I was a kid. I have vivid memories of munching on one while sitting out by the driveway hoping my soon-to-be new neighbors were going to be coming by to check on their new house and bring their kids with them to play with me.

These were actually kind of a pain to make. The recipe made it look like it was so easy to get the chocolate shell perfectly coated on top of the marshmallows and then onto the skewers, when in reality, you were left with a skewer that was covered in sticky marshmallow innards and eating the middle marshmallow (or marshmallows, if you were ambitious and wanted to try sticking four to a skewer instead of the recommended three) often meant you were covered in sticky marshmallow goo and chocolate while looking like a psychopath gnawing on a stick, even when you tried to eat it like corn on the cob. The other problem always lay in the presentation for me - in the photograph, it looks like each marshmallow needs the top dunked in chocolate shell, then dusted with sprinkles, then put on the skewer and put into the freezer to chill, when the recipe actually says the marshmallows should be on the skewer and frozen first, then drizzled with chocolate shell and dusted with sprinkles. I always decided to stick to the photograph, which usually meant some of the shell got stuck to the plate I froze them on, and it became a wrestling match between seven year old Gwen and her stupid frozen dessert.

So, long story short, while I was down this nostalgia rabbit hole, I made doll sized versions for Grace.

Unfortunately, we were out of multicolor nonpareils...

While most recipes in AG Magazine probably won't be finding their way onto this blog because they're all pretty simple and no fuss, I thought it would be fun to take some time looking back at something I enjoyed several summers ago and getting around to finally trying out a couple of these other recipes. Maybe in another thirteen years, I'll finally get around to making the one with peanut butter in it!

What about you guys? Did you ever get the magazine? Have you ever tried out one of the featured recipes, either in print or on one of the company's social media pages?

And perhaps most importantly, are you planning on sharing those, Grace?


  1. I loved American Girl magazine as a kid! I remember feeling similarly disappointed when I realized I was getting too old. I too loved the Amelia stories and I had several of her books as well as the Amelia messenger bag that I thought was super cool. I remember this particular issue of the magazine, too! I made the ones that involved putting ice cream at the bottom of a dixie cup, filling the rest of the way with grape juice, and inserting a popsicle stick. I think I just choose that recipe because they looked pretty and purple, but I don't think I liked them very much if I remember right. Thanks for sharing this! Grace looks so cute.

    1. You know, I almost made the grape juice and ice cream ones. Now I'm glad I didn't!

      Wow, an Amelia messenger bag? I totally would have been into that. I loved her books, I still take them out to read sometimes. The little things she'd tape into the pages were my favorite, favorite parts, I always wished they were real little erasers and toys and stuff.

  2. Those popsicles ended up looking good! I used to have a coworker who used to make something similar - I think she said her recipe was from The Lazy Man's Cookbook, though.

    My sister got American Girl magazine for one year the first year it came out, and I remember looking through them, but I honestly didn't remember the recipes - I think the paper dolls were the only part that made an impression on me.

    1. The paper dolls were so cool! I remember being mad there wasn't an easy way to get featured yourself, even though I wasn't sure which relatives to use for the ancestor outfits, haha.