I don’t remember all that much about the foods my mother made for us growing up, other than that things were pretty simple and homey. Baked chicken with potatoes and broccoli. Scrambled eggs with salami. Macaroni and cheese with tuna. Chopped liver on Ritz crackers (!). Homemade desserts were equally simple: Chocolate pudding. Frozen bananas. Apple pie. And then there were the pumpkin popsicles.
I’m not sure how these frozen pumpkin treats made it into the rotation, though if I had to guess, I’d bet my dad bought a huge pumpkin one year that, when gutted, left a glut of innards that needed to be purposed. In any event, when colder weather came calling, these unusual, creamy pumpkin treats would show up in the freezer. And this was years before popsicles became fashionable and before exotic ice cream flavors made frozen pumpkin treats de rigueur in the frozen confection section of specialty markets. Now, I’m not trying to claim my mom invented Post-It Notes or the Internet, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and assert that she may have been an early pioneer of frozen pumpkin novelties.
I asked her recently if she could recall what went into her original recipe. She claims they were made with leftover cooked pumpkin custard that was destined for pie; a blend of pumpkin puree, eggs, milk and sugar. Interesting. But far too much work (and sugar) for my purposes.
My goal was a low sugar treat whose creamy texture and warm flavors delivered seasonal indulgence without the requisite fat and calories. One that didn’t require any cooking of ingredients; more like a frozen pumpkin smoothie than a frozen pumpkin pie. To that end, I chose low-fat kefir for creaminess without the fat; some pumpkin pie spice and vanilla extract for flavor, and a touch of agave nectar to take the bland edge off of plain pumpkin puree and tame the tang of the yogurt to allow the warm, autumn flavors to come through. The great thing about using agave is that it’s so much sweeter than sugar, so just a little bit can go much further flavorwise. Also, it’s liquid, which makes it very easy to blend into this recipe. I’ll admit that when the final product was done, even I was surprised at how low calorie and healthy these puppies were. And satisfying!
Lastly, I call them “paletas,” which is Spanish for “popsicles,” because I used to work in marketing and recognize that Pumpkin Paletas sounds way more interesting than Pumpkin Popsicles. If you need to market these to xenophobic or neophobic relatives, other descriptive names that would be appropriate would include: Pumpkin Pie On a Stick or Frozen Pumpkin Spice Treats.
Makes ~6 pops (may vary depending on the size of your molds)
- 1 cup canned pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
- 1 cup lowfat plain kefir*
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 TBSP agave nectar
- 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (note: if you don’t have pumpkin pie spice on hand, blend 1/2 tsp cinnamon + 1/4 tsp ground ginger + 1/8 tsp nutmeg + 1/8 tsp allspice or cloves)
- Blend all ingredients in a blender until well mixed
- Pour into popsicle molds and freeze until solid
* To make these lactose-free (as I do), use Green Valley Organics lactose-free kefir**. To make vegan/dairy-free, substitute 1 cup LITE canned coconut milk.
What to do with Leftover Canned Pumpkin
It’s a first-world problem that we all face every fall: What to do with that extra bit of pumpkin puree thats leftover from piemaking? In our house, I freeze any remaining puree in an ice cube tray. When the cubes are frozen, transfer them to a freezer-safe ziploc bag. Then, next time you’re making pancakes or waffles from a mix, defrost 2 cubes (about 2oz) of pumpkin puree and add it to the batter along with a dash of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice. Voila! Pumpkin pancakes!
**FTC disclosure: I am a paid consulting dietitian for Green Valley Organics