Today I am featuring an oldie but a goodie, cheesecake popsicles without food dyes! These popsicles are packed full of great taste and fruit but completely free of artificial food dyes. Their festive colors come only from ingredients found in nature! Now, without further adieu, let’s take it back to 2015:
This week, General Mills announced that it will be removing all artificial flavors and colors from its cereals. To me, this is a big step in the right direction by a major food producer, but I am wondering what Trix is going to look like without artificial colors. Whether or not you believe artificial colors are harmful, my belief is that they are largely unnecessary. Why add artificial colors, why not eat food the color that it happens to be? Well, sometimes, like when a certain patriotic holiday is involved, you might want your food to match the occasion.
Remember Bomb Pops? What exactly were those made of? And how is “blue raspberry” a flavor? Are blue raspberries really a thing? They were definitely patriotic, but I never enjoyed the taste. In fact, I never really enjoyed popsicles of any kind. Why have frozen water/juice when I could have ice cream instead? Enter these patriotic “popsicles” without food dyes.
I say “popsicles” because these are anything but your traditional popsicle. Sweet berries swirled with tangy cheesecake to make a frozen dessert sure to shake up your BBQ. And the best part? No artificial flavors or colors here. Just the natural red from strawberries and natural blueish color from blueberries. Ok the other best part? These are super easy to make and sure to impress your friends and family as we celebrate the upcoming anniversary of the birth of our nation!
Some technical notes about the color:
You may notice from the photos, but the red and blue are definitely not the traditional colors you would get if you used food coloring. It turns out that, despite the name, blueberries are really more purple than blue. And sometimes strawberries may look a little more pink than red. I have good news and bad news about the colors.
Good news: Red is a pretty easy color to generate naturally. When you think about it this is a bit intuitive because there are tons of naturally red foods. You can use strawberries or raspberries, but either way, if they come out a bit more pink than you would like, you can add some beet juice to get that bright red hue. I added about 3-4 teaspoons of beet juice without affecting the taste at all. I also added a spoonful of the blueberry mixture to get the color a bit deeper.
Bad News: Blue colors are among the most difficult to generate from natural foods. Again, think about it, there are few truly BLUE foods in nature. So you have a few options here. The first option is to just use the purplish/bluish blueberries as is. This is the best choice in terms of taste. However, if you want them to be bluer, you can add some baking soda to the mixture. Add the baking soda very slowly, about 1/8 of a teaspoon at a time. Let it sit for a minute or two and then add more as needed. If you choose to go this route, the baking soda will make the blueberries taste a bit “off,” but they will look nice. So, if you use the baking soda, I recommend using only small amounts of the blueberry mixture and sort of swirling it in with the cheesecake. Also, don’t put the blueberries in the very bottom of the popsicle mold, as this will be the first bite. You don’t want the first bite tasting “off.” For the record, I used the baking soda and was still satisfied with the taste.
- For the Berry Swirl:
- 1.5 c. strawberries (fresh or frozen), hulled and halved
- 1 c. blueberries (again fresh or frozen is fine)
- 2 T. honey, divided
- ½ lemon, halved
- Optional: Beet juice, baking soda (see above)
- For the Cheesecake:
- 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
- 1 t. lemon zest
- 1 t. vanilla extract
- Make the Berry Swirl:
- Place the strawberries and blueberries in two separate bowls. Squeeze ¼ of the lemon over each bowl. Add 1 T. of honey to each bowl. Let the berries rest while you make the cheesecake swirl.
- Make the Cheesecake:
- Beat cream cheese until fluffy. Slowly add the condensed milk, beat until smooth. Add lemon zest and vanilla. Set aside.
- Assemble the popsicles:
- Whirl each of the berry mixtures in the blender separately. If desired, add beet juice/baking soda for color enhancement. (See above)
- Assemble cheesecake and berry swirl into popsicle molds. It is best if you do strawberries, cheesecake, blueberries, cheesecake. The cheesecake will not freeze completely solid, it has an ice cream texture, so if you put it into the very bottom of the popsicle mold it will lose a bit of its shape on the way out of the mold. My molds are from Amazon and I will link at the bottom. Any popsicle mold should work, but if you try to use something wider, like a cup, you will be disappointed. This is because the cheesecake is heavier than the fruit, so it will sink to the bottom and you won't get the separation of the colors.